Technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, and businesses are struggling to keep up. One way to stay relevant in a crowded, sophisticated marketplace is to employ workers who can emulate the dizzying pace of progress. That isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It may be simply a matter of how — and when — employees learn that makes a difference.
Today’s skills, from business acumen to robotics, can’t be mastered in one-time training sessions. They’re too complex and multi-faceted. True mastery requires ongoing support, hands-on practice, and regular reinforcement.
Mentoring for Mastery
“Our clients routinely say they want to be ‘more digital,’” says Nancy Wolk, Co-Founder and Principal of mentoring software company eMentorConnect. “The reality is that ‘digital technology’ is a vast topic. You get a light learning of it in a classroom, but that’s all. You’re just scratching the surface. Mentoring lets you hone in on specific digital topics like social media or the difference between the dark web and Facebook. It lets you go deeper.”
And while going deeper is necessary to master a subject, it also opens the door to new questions. This is especially true when it comes to fields like IT, where knowledge and application are constantly expanding. Just-in-time mentoring, which lets employees ask for help as it’s needed, offers a powerful way to reinforce and expand learning in a way that answers ongoing questions and helps employees keep pace with progress.
Learning as It’s Needed
“Just-in-time mentoring enables companies to offer training with flexibility,” says Wolk. “An employee might be assigned a certain project today, for example, and they might not yet have all the tools needed to complete that project, but they also might not have time to wait for a class that’s happening three months from now. With just-in-time mentoring, they can find a mentor on that topic right away and use the knowledge they gain on the job immediately.”
That immediacy is essential for progress. Technology changes rapidly and companies must be able to respond, learn, and adapt just as rapidly. If they can’t, they’ll be left behind. The same is true for employees. Just-in-time (or on-demand) mentoring enables employees to achieve that rapid response and propel themselves forward. That is, as long as the mentorship program is able to move quickly, too.
Automating for Success
Many corporate mentoring programs aren’t set up to effectively provide on-demand mentoring because the platforms used to run the programs don’t allow for fluid changes. To be effective in today’s world, the mentoring solution — just like the company and the employee — must be able to respond rapidly. Automation is the key to that response.
“With automation, instead of an employee calling up HR and saying, ‘Hey, I need a mentor on this topic,’ and then HR taking a month to find that mentor, the employee can just go into KNOX® (our mentoring software), filter for a topic, find a person, and immediately connect,” explains Wolk. “There’s no waiting. There’s no downtime. They’re talking by lunch, and the employee now has the tools he or she needs to move forward today, not a month from now.
“Automation is a tool. It isn’t the relationship, but it’s the tool to use to achieve the best results within that relationship. And that extends to the content itself as well. With manual or platform-based solutions, a mentee might come to the mentor and say, ‘I need help with this particular topic’ and the mentor scratches his or her head and says, ‘Let me see what I can find, and I’ll share it with you,’ or ‘Let me connect you with this person who knows about that.’ With KNOX, the content is preloaded. The resources are already there, and the mentor knows exactly where to go to start having the conversation the mentee needs. The automation allows for a more robust relationship, which enables the mentee to achieve a greater level of mastery on any topic that’s needed.”
Training alone isn’t enough. Mentoring can amplify the training required to manage technology shifts inside your company.