Mentoring is more than just a management fad, it is a well-established training method which helps companies improve their productivity and customer service.

It is being used internally by a growing number of travel companies, including First Choice, Ebookers, TUI and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, and is now forming a major part of the new Accredited Travel Professional scheme currently being developed by ABTA, the Institute for Travel and Tourism and People 1st.

Mentoring is the process where individuals who want to receive assistance and guidance in their professional lives work with an appointed mentor, who advises, challenges, and stimulates them to progress and perform at their best.

In most cases, the mentor is a volunteer who is at a more senior level within the company, but it can work the other way around. IBM, for example, uses reverse mentoring where junior employees help more experienced members of the organisation by coming up with fresh ideas.

According to Shine People and Places, which sets up mentoring schemes for travel and tourism companies, not enough travel companies are taking advantage of this relatively low-cost form of training and development.

“It’s ideal for small or medium-sized companies which do not have their own human resources departments and which cannot afford to pay for outside trainers to come in, or to send staff on outside courses,” said joint managing director Gaby Marcon.

“Mentoring can speed up the induction of new people, improve staff retention and motivation, increase the effectiveness of formal training, tackle underperformance and ultimately improve productivity.”

Steve Higgins, who is running workshops for the mentors taking part in the ATP pilot scheme in London, said mentors need to be patient, have hands-on experience in the workplace, and must be good listeners.

He said both mentors and learners can benefit from the mentoring experience.

Julia Feuell, managing director of New Frontiers and chairman of the Association of Women Travel Executives, said the AWTE is also planning to run mentoring schemes for newer, younger members.

“The more experienced members can act as a sounding board and give them help on an informal basis,” she said.

Case study: the learner

Lucy Hodgson, senior development manager planning and trading at TUI UK, was supported by mentor, Annie Lawler, as part of a company mentoring scheme set up by Shine People and Places. At the time Lawler was a senior professional at Senior King Communications, and has since set up Breathing Space, which delivers wellbeing seminars to companies in travel, PR, and other industries.
I decided I would like to have a mentor because I wanted to rebuild my self-confidence and confirm the right direction for my own development. Since having children and subsequently changing to work part-time I had become anxious about maintaining a career that met my aspirations as well as allowing an acceptable work-life balance. It was really beneficial to have someone to talk to who wanted to understand my situation. I began to find my job significantly more enjoyable and felt satisfaction in implementing some of the suggestions my mentor made.

Case study: the mentor

Maxine Footitt, manager at Going Places Uxbridge, attended mentoring workshops as part of ABTA’s Accredited Travel Professional scheme. She is also on the Focus Group responsible for developing the scheme.

I was already mentoring with my team of six at my agency,
but since the mentoring workshop it’s been more structured and formal and I keep it well documented. It’s a way of learning for me as well – I get feedback about training, and I now know when my staff think I haven’t explained something properly. I have weekly one-to-ones where I touch base with each member of the team and discuss what they’ve been working on. I really enjoy these meetings.