Training, Coaching, Mentoring – What’s the Difference?

In every HR or People & Culture department, the question of what kind of program to invest in for your Learning & Development efforts is a pretty important one.

Should you invest in a training program, coaching sessions, or a mentoring program? What are the differences between the three anyway? Do you need all of them?

In this post, we’ll give you the rundown on what makes them different, what you should use depending on what goals you have and/or areas you’d like to focus on, and what you should expect from each.

Let’s get to it.


Training often takes the shape of paid programs that teach hard skills, like those deployed to learn new software, a foreign language, business writing, etc. While training programs for soft skills are available, these programs are more often employed to improve hard skills. That’s also why they’re usually led by a trainer and task-oriented, with a linear course progression and a test or evaluation for proficiency at the end of the program.

So how much will such programs cost you? According to Training Magazine’s 2020 Training Industry Report, the average company in the U.S. spent $1111 USD or $1563 AUD per employee on training costs. Broken down by company size, this is what it looks like:

  • Small companies (100 to 999 employees) spent $2361 AUD per person
  • Mid-size companies (1,000 to 9,999 employees) spent $818 AUD per person
  • Large companies (10,000+ employees) spent $1300 AUD per person

And these training expenditures are lower than usual; they declined more than half of a percent from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Coaching is also a paid service in which engagement is time-bound; this may be due to a predetermined deadline or based on reaching a particular outcome. Unlike training, coaching is more geared to teaching soft skills like team management, effective communication, listening skills, etc. Coaching is often formatted as a specific program, such as those aimed at:

  • Public speaking and/or presentation tips
  • Management advice
  • Problem solving
  • Effective leadership

While somewhat relationship-oriented, coaching is still transactional, as it’s paid. Like training programs, coaching is also more task-based. But unlike training programs, the coach doesn’t necessarily need to have specific, lived experience that relates to those being coached.

When it comes to costs, expect to pay upwards of $210-$420 AUD per hour. In other words, it’s a big financial investment.



This brings us to mentoring, a program that is—at its core—voluntary. This means participants are oftentimes more willing and, therefore, contribute more and are more tied to the outcome of the experience. A mentor is generally motivated to give back; they donate their time and expertise to the mentee. Unlike a coach, who’s remunerated for their services, a mentor’s reward is altruistic. They do not consider this to be their ‘profession,’ but rather a philanthropic exercise.

Mentoring partners can guide one another in training for skills they want to improve. Instead of a blanket goal for everyone participating, every relationship can be targeted around what each specific mentee’s goals are. Which brings us to another big differentiator between coaching and mentoring: In a coaching scenario, learning is directed by the coach rather than the student, while in a mentoring relationship, the expectation falls to the mentee to cultivate and drive the relationship.

Additionally, instead of being task-oriented like the other two options, mentoring is relationship-oriented, especially when matches are based on common goals and/or interests. This means the mentor is there to provide the mentee with general guidance and support, supporting them as opposed to telling them what to do or how to do it.

As for cost, this is usually associated with the mentoring tool you choose to employ (e.g. Mentorloop, which is 680x cheaper than executive coaching and 373x cheaper than a single,

in-person training session). There are no other associated costs because you can leverage in-house assets that you already have—including the mentors and mentees from your team who participate, and the tools you already use in-house that you can deploy to run the program (e.g. your website, intranet, project management suite, email, Slack, etc.).


Our Pick? Mentoring!

You might’ve seen this coming, as it’s in our name. But in all honesty, mentoring is a very cost-effective way to accomplish most L&D goals.

L&D SolutionAverage Cost Per Person*
Executive Coaching Session$4,760
In-person Training Session$2,613
Online Leadership Course$1,085
Online Learning Subscription$23
Mentorloop (montly cost)$7

*all costs calculated from averaging ≥4 suppliers

With the average learning and development allowance for an individual employee sitting around $1200 AUD, why invest in a one-off experience when you can provide your people with multiple, life-changing connections for the cost of a coffee?

Encourage people to share their knowledge and experience, leverage the talent within your organisation, and enable a more powerful, engaged workforce, all while maximising your learning and development budget.

If you think mentoring is the way to go for you, book a demo.

Book A Demo

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Grace is our Content Marketing Manager at Mentorloop. She's also a keen cook, a dog mom, and lover of all things tropical.

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