Making a Success of Mentoring – Effective Training
So, you have worked on ensuring that there are solid mentoring relationships in your workplace. That is only half the challenge though because mentoring still needs to lead towards some common objectives and training goals and to do that you want to help drive certain aspects of culture to get full value out of mentoring
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, when it comes to training and development, there needs to be a sense of ownership. No training or development can take place if a person does not want to or own their own development. This mostly applies to the mentee who should have a desire to learn, ask questions and put in the effort to learn as much as possible, though there is also a committed amount of ownership from the mentor to be consistent in making time available and providing the diligent guidance that is needed. Without proper ownership from either side, training is likely to either be slow and staggered or completely non-existent.
2) Appropriate Training Objectives
Learning and development need to be structured in some way. While it will most definitely happen on the fly when certain activities or difficulties are experienced, but to truly help a person develop, there needs to be a set list of objectives and outcomes they need to work on and a plan on how to get there. This is the part of training where I see many mentors fall short because it requires a lot of work from them to identify some of these things and put in plans to address a person’s development criteria. However, in putting together a proper plan, it helps to provide a roadmap for the mentee, makes it easier for them to work on their development, plus again adds structure to the relationship. There will still be many moments of unstructured and ad-hoc learning even with the most detailed of plans, but that does not make it any less essential for a good plan to be in place.
The objectives and goals that get set though should also be appropriate to a person’s long-term career path, knowledge set and job relevance. Teaching them something that might be interesting and technically challenging for them, but not really something they need to learn or that they can practice in their daily work is not exactly the most effective use of the time. Same applies for something that could be relevant but perhaps too technical for them or above their current abilities. It may seem relevant and helpful to them but will likely only frustrate their learning and break down the mentoring relationship in the end.
3) Appropriate Learning Pace
Along with the need for a proper structure learning plan, should also come a roadmap of when a person should progress and learn in certain areas. The trick here is that not everyone learns at the same pace and one thing that is easy to understand for one person, might prove a challenge for another. Any good training program should allow for this flexibility and so even if a plan has a set of weekly deliverables or targets, reasonable grace should be allowed for them struggling with certain sections. Even more so if there are personal or family issues that an individual needs to navigate during this time.
This doesn’t mean things should be easy and we mustn’t take a plan seriously. It just means that we should allow for some learning challenges along the way. If every small task is proving a learning channel, then there is something bigger at play and there is either a misalignment of training expectations, a poor mentoring relationship or a lack of ownership somewhere that needs to be addressed.
Coinciding with an appropriate development plan should be some form of accountability. Having a plan to learn is great, but there needs to be some form of accountability to it too. Coinciding with the first point on ownership, accountability ensures that a person takes responsibility for their career growth and development. If they are not making the most of their mentoring time and development, it should reflect in their performance in some way and the same should go for rewarding consistent growth. While you don’t want to place unnecessary emphasis or pressure on this aspect of a person’s job when there is day-to-day project work that is likely stressful enough, you do want a person to take advantage of development afforded them and that the time is not wasted.
What to do if someone isn’t making the effort to learn
You can’t force someone to learn and if they do not take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them through mentoring, then that’s okay. Growth in whichever capacity is something which should form a part of a person’s career objectives and so if there is no growth, it should ultimately reflect in some form of appraisal at the end of the year. That doesn’t mean though that a person isn’t currently good at a job they are already doing and so you need to punish anyone here unless their lack of growth and development is impacting their effectiveness in the workplace.
Plus, its’s important to remember that people do grow at their own pace and some people might have other personal matters that are far more important than the direction you are trying to take them in through your mentoring. Be flexible and rather work with the individuals where they at.
Mentoring forms the backbone of career development in an organisation. Yes, people can attend training courses and have effective one on one coaching sessions with people in the company, but if you want your team to grow the most and get long-term effective training and development, you will want a mentor to help them along the way. I understand this is not easy for small companies, but as much as possible, try and put together some form of mentoring system in your organisations so that you can move your people forward. And that growth will ultimately be what not only makes them better at what they do but makes them happier too. Provided you still look after them.