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Maximizing Knowledge Transfer with Mentoring

One of the greatest challenges for any manager is maximizing the learning and the knowledge transfer from training.

Maximizing Knowledge Transfer with Mentoring Just-in-time training (JITT) is critical. Give your employees training when they need it, not several months before or several months after. People will forget the majority of what they have learned less than a month later unless they apply their new skills immediately after training. It's the age-old philosophy "use it or lose it", so ultimately, training should be scheduled to coincide with the immediate need to apply the new knowledge. In reality, this is not always possible.

Ensure Your Training Success with Mentoring

Not everyone learns the same way. Some people learn best in the classroom, while others learn best by sitting down and working with a task, and others learn best through working with others. Because no training approach is perfect for everyone you will want to create an approach that combines learning styles.

Many managers find that the best training investment is a combination of formal training, followed-up by some form of mentoring.

Mentoring is not a new concept or practice. History abounds with examples of professional mentoring. ‘Mentor’ was the name of the man charged with providing wisdom, advice, and guidance to King Odysseus’s son in the ancient Greek epic ‘The Odyssey’. During the Middle Ages, boys served as apprentices to masters in a craft or trade while gaining skills to eventually qualify as a journeyman and, finally, as a master. During this time, the mentoring relationship ensured the continuity and quality of the craft handed down to the next generation.

The modern concept of mentoring is the planned pairing of a more skilled or experienced person with a lesser skilled or experienced one. Mentoring is the process of sharing experience, knowledge and wisdom. It is a good way of providing a road map to success – benefiting from someone else’s experiences, someone who has already been down the same road, and knows the pitfalls and how to avoid them. They understand the right combination of skills and behaviours that lead to successful results.

In her 1977 speech at the Nobel Banquet, prizewinner Rosalyn Yalow addressed the students of Stockholm, identifying them as "the carriers of our hopes for the survival of the world and our dreams for its future." Yalow spoke of an ever-widening circle of learning. She said, "If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the earth, we must believe that each succeeding generation will be wiser than its progenitors. We transmit to you, the next generation, the total sum of our knowledge. Yours is the responsibility to use it, to add to it, and transmit it to your children."

Provide Mentoring and Hands-on Experience

Once the initial training is complete, employees are ready to begin applying their new skills. Many organizations believe that their employees now have the necessary skills to do the job on their own. Often, nothing could be further from the truth. Would you send somebody to a couple of accounting courses and give them control of your organization’s finances? Probably not. Therefore, why would you send somebody to a training course and expect them to perfectly apply their new found skills?

Mentoring is not a replacement for training but supports it. After initial training is complete, employees are ready to take the knowledge learned in the training and apply the new skills in practice. Mentoring can make the transfer of learning more successful. The mentoring effort should be performed on actual tasks, in which the employee is given the opportunity to apply and evolve the skills that they received during training.

Mentors should be involved right after the training event, so that the application of the skills and knowledge gets off on the right track. The Mentor will start off with more time involved with the employee, being more directive in the relationship. When the employee starts to become more competent, the Mentor starts to ‘wean’ themselves away, with less direct contact, enabling the employee to apply the skills on their own. Good Mentors develop independence among their protégés.

What Do Mentors Do?

Mentors are good listeners, people who care, people who want to help others bring out the strengths that are already there. Mentors could be asked to:

  • Provide professional advice
  • Act as a confidante
  • Provide performance feedback
  • Teach political astuteness
  • Offer career counseling/support
  • Be a career coach
  • Encourage risk taking
  • Encourage participation in high profile activities
  • Provide access to promotional activities

In addition, Mentors may be asked to play the role of:

  • Role Model - lead by example
  • Advisor - who has career experience and share their knowledge
  • Supporter - provide encouragement - morally and emotionally
  • Expert - provide critical insights and knowledge around foundational skills and accountabilities for Senior Inspectors
  • Tutor - provide feedback on core skills,

Mentor Support

A cornerstone of successful mentoring should include on-going guidance and advice for the Mentor. Don’t assume that people know how to Mentor. Best Practices of highly effective mentor programs include trained and dedicated mentors, clearly defined roles and responsibilities with expectations clearly stated, and support materials for mentors to work from.

Training for Mentors should minimally include:

  • What is a Mentor/Mentoring?
  • How to Mentor
  • Running a mentoring session
  • How to give feedback
  • Do’s and don’ts
  • Specific tools

Most Mentors will feel more comfortable if they have a basic agenda from which to work. A brief information session for Mentors, to provide basic information of what the training contains and answer questions should be held. This session should include the objectives of the training, the key learning points, specific application methods, specific questions for the Mentor to ask the employee, and any other pertinent information in ensuring successful transfer of the training.

Giving your employees just in time training (JITT), with the benefit of mentoring will help you to maximize the learning and the knowledge transfer from training, as well as your employee development investment dollars.

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