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Mentoring as an Alternative to Training?

2009 September 28
by Richard N. Landers
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I recently came across this article which on first glance appears to suggest mentoring as an “alternative” to rigorous, well-designed training.  This strikes me as a very peculiar statement!  I have always consider mentoring to simply be a type of training, perhaps one leg of a many-legged training system.

I think this viewpoint may stem from the view that mentoring is viewed as an undesirable option when faced with training design – something to be implemented when insufficient funds are available to create a comprehensive instructional platform.  And that’s a shame.  Informal learning is already a major force by which employees gain information.  Casually turning to a coworker and asking a question, or simply writing an e-mail to the project leader, much learning at work is self-directed within pre-existing social circles, and that’s not a bad thing.

Instead of considering mentoring to be a cheap, undesirable alternative when the money dries up, why not take advantage of it?  Why not design a mentoring system to get the absolute most out of the instructional resources you already have – your more experienced employees!  They have both general experience (what training traditionally provides) and experience specific to your organization.  That makes them a resource for training materials better than many training designers.

One of these days, I’ll detail on this blog exactly how my own automated mentoring system driven by social networking takes advantage of precisely these features, but for now, you’ll have to attend the conference where I’ll be talking about it next month.  I am hopeful that a few organizations will volunteer to let my lab implement this system (for free!) so we can fine-tune it.  Perhaps it could be you!

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  1. Nicole permalink
    October 1, 2009

    At my company I’m in charge of our mentoring programs, and we are using an online system as well. We use it primarily to match up mentees & mentors based on our competencies, but you’ll have to write more about your mentoring program, as I’m certainly not attending the conference you are going to.

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