Revitalize Formal Learning by Embedding Mentoring

Creating high-impact learning experiences for today’s workforce must go well beyond courses. Modern learners want to collaborate. They want to learn from their colleagues. They want to feel connected.

That’s why social and collaborative learning platforms are among the most popular now and rank first among technologies that companies plan to add over the next 12 months, according to this year’s Brandon Hall Group™ Learning Benchmarking Study.

These platforms connect individual learners into cohorts to share knowledge, experiences and insights and work together on projects to apply their learning. The technology becomes even more valuable when it can include contributions from outside the cohort, such as mentors.

NovoEd, a Brandon Hall Group™ Preferred Provider, can embed engagement from mentors through its collaborative cohort learning platform. Using NovoEd, mentors can track the progress of multiple learners, respond to learner submissions with feedback and generally add context and perspective to the learning experience.

That’s a powerful combination since collaborative learning and mentoring rank 1-2 for effectiveness, our research shows.

Source: Brandon Hall Group™ Study, Transforming Learning for the Future of Work

The problem has been that mentoring is often used separately from learning, where experienced leaders lend their advice and counsel to protégés over time in a series of periodic meetings. However, when integrated into learning experiences, mentoring adds a new dimension to formal learning — another level of connection for a modern workforce that craves interaction and often finds courses tedious and limiting.

Virtual in-house mentors can provide guidance, feedback and advice to help mentees apply formal training concepts to real work. The ongoing dialogue and relationship of mentoring as an extension of formal learning increases knowledge retention and bridges the gap between theory and practice. In addition, mentors can learn and grow from their interactions with the learners.

Technology Transforms Mentoring

With mentoring technology emerging as a learning technology category, the value of mentoring can increase exponentially. Mentoring outside of a learning program can feel detached from what an employee is doing every day. There is pressure on both the mentor and mentee to create the right environment to make the relationship meaningful. Establishing mentoring within learning programs using a social and collaborative learning platform creates a structure that is aligned with an employee’s learning and career development goals.

Organizations often struggle to reinforce learning, which reduces the likelihood that the learning will be applied on the job. When employees have relationships with one or multiple mentors, the relationship can extend beyond the program and be a built-in continuation of the learning journey.

Mentoring technology can also be used to connect learners with internal coaches, who focus more on performance than ongoing development and advice, and onboarding buddies who can help new hires through the often-trying initial months of employment by providing perspective and insights.

Reverse mentoring, which Brandon Hall Group™ research shows is gaining in popularity — especially in leadership development programs in which leaders need exposure to the perspectives of those they are leading — can also be facilitated through mentoring technology.

The platform also can improve the administration and fulfillment of mentoring. It can:

  • Simplify the matching of mentors and learners. In research interviews, several companies lamented the complexity of matching mentors and coaches with learners. The technology uses AI to solve that.
  • Schedule meetings. Logistics often make it challenging for mentors and learners to connect. The relationship can stall if participants are not actively engaged. The technology takes away the need for back-and-forth scheduling conversations and allows the participants to focus on the substance of their interactions.
  • Provide structure and guidance. Participating in mentoring or coaching does not come naturally to many participants — both the mentors/coaches and the learners. The platform can provide ideas on how to structure conversations and suggest topics based on the learning program. This provides a foundation for success.
  • Track progress and measure impact. Measuring the results and impacts of any learning endeavor is a struggle for many organizations. This technology can provide reporting and dashboards to evaluate engagement and offer suggestions if results are not on track to meet goals or expectations.

Key Takeaways

Overall, integrated mentorship enriches, supplements and extends the value of formal cohort-based learning initiatives. Here is a summary of the over-arching benefits:

  • Reinforcement of concepts. Mentors can provide guidance that reinforces the skills, knowledge and concepts introduced through structured lessons and content. Mentoring conversations can help cement formal learning.
  • Application to real situations. Mentees get support applying what they learn in formal settings to actual on-the-job situations they face. Mentors provide context and advice tailored to mentees’ specific needs.
  • Encouragement and accountability. An assigned mentor provides accountability for mentees completing formal learning milestones. Mentors also motivate mentees and recognize achievements in the learning program.
  • Needs-based support. Mentors get insight into mentees’ strengths and weak areas through formal assessments and training feedback. They can then provide customized coaching.
  • Cohort cohesion. Having cohort peers connect via shared mentors and discuss learning creates community and facilitates idea exchange.
  • Ongoing reflection. Formal learning prompts reflection, and mentors can reinforce the internalization of concepts through dialogue about experiences and takeaways.
  • Real-time Q&A. Mentors give mentees a direct line to ask questions immediately during or after formal learning activities while concepts are fresh.
  • Career development. Mentors support mentees in applying formal learnings to chart career goals and paths aligned to new skills.

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Claude Werder



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Claude Werder

Claude J. Werder Senior Vice President and Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group Claude Werder runs Brandon Hall Group’s Talent Management, Leadership Development and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) practices. His specific areas of focus include how organizations must transform culturally and strategically to meet the needs of the emerging workforce and workplace. Claude develops insights and solutions on employee experience, leadership, coaching, talent development, assessments, culture, DE&I, and other topics to help members and clients make talent development a competitive business advantage now and in the evolving future of work. Before joining Brandon Hall Group in 2012, Claude was an HR consultant and also spent more than 25 years as an executive and people leader for media and news organizations. This included a decade as the producer of the HR Technology Conference and Expo. He helped transform it from a small event to the world’s largest HR technology conference. Claude is a judge for the global Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards and Excellence in Technology Awards, contributes to the company’s HCM certification programs, and produces the firm’s annual HCM Excellence Conference. He is also a certified executive and leadership coach. He lives in Boynton Beach, FL.

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