How Can Mentoring Facilitate Learning and Development Across An Organization?

June 20, 2012

Mentoring is used today by organizations to satisfy any number of unique business objectives from onboarding, diversity or most often centering on leadership development, succession planning, employee career development and knowledge transfer.

One trend now in learning and development (L&D) is tapping into and sharing an organization’s current knowledge base through mentoring as part of an L&D strategy. Best practice formal mentoring programs enable learning across an organization as they offer an organized process through which individuals can learn from each other, and discuss and share information.

L&D professionals are discovering that while traditional training may rightfully continue to play a role in their L&D strategy, a formal mentoring program, with specific organizational objectives, can be a successful and cost effective component to that strategy.

Traditional mentoring created a one to one relationship with a more senior employee assuming the role of mentor. But due to the way we work today, there has been a considerable shift in the dynamics of mentoring. Mentoring partnerships are now created in a number of ways that enables a wider scope of learning opportunities across an organization. Learning takes place in different locations and sometimes in greater numbers, creating more of a social learning network.

Here are the new focuses of mentoring currently emerging in today’s workplace:

  • Distance Mentoring - The mentoring partnership does not take place face-to-face but uses other forms of communication tools, such as e-mail, audio/video-conferencing, etc.
  • Situational Mentoring – The mentoring partnership is often project-based where advice is given for learning or solving specific tasks.
  • Mentoring Circles – Everyone participating in the circle acts in the role of mentor and in the role of mentee, meeting regularly to share, discuss and learn.
  • Group or Team Mentoring – One mentor may have many mentees with common developmental needs, or one mentee may have many mentors where they can gain “best” knowledge sharing from many experts.
  • Peer Mentoring – A one-to-one mentoring partnership where each individual plays the role of mentor and mentee depending on area of expertise.
  • Reverse Mentoring – The mentor is younger or in an earlier stage in their career than the mentee.

The question then is how can mentoring facilitate L&D across an organization, furthermore, for an organization with multiple locations, nationwide or worldwide?

With the development of online mentoring software solutions, participants can be bi-coastal or just about anywhere in the world and still have successful mentoring partnerships addressing various objectives and career development goals. Many organizations are implementing an online solution to support their formal mentoring programs.

Using an online technology solution enables better matching and paring with an application process that identifies the most compatible participants. By connecting mentees with a wider pool of compatible mentors that more closely align with their development needs, mentees find the best possible match among available, committed mentors company-wide, from any location. Better matches make for better mentoring partnerships.

An online mentoring technology solution supports L&D initiatives by giving mentoring partnerships a social learning network platform with tools and resources to communicate, explore and set development goals, track events and activities associated with goals and successes, and track program results.

What should one look for in an online mentoring solution?

  • Seamless integration with an organization’s present HRMS for ease of data transfer.
  • A streamlined application process, where mentors and mentees are selected for the mentoring program, confirming commitment level and appropriateness of participation based on an organization’s standards.
  • Robust features including assessments, communication and tracking tools with fresh content that allow participants freedom to explore, reflect, develop and achieve career goals.
  • For administrators, the ability to track and report program results is critical as ROI will need to be qualified and quantified to ensure longevity and continued support by decision makers.

Mentoring fosters learning and development, allowing employees to learning from one another. An online technology solution provides employees with a structured mentoring process and the tools to make the best connections and achieve their personal career goals while enabling the organization to achieve its unique business objectives as well. A strategic mentoring process supported by the right technology, yields individual, group and organizational successes.

Up next: "Types of Mentoring for Today's Workplace"

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