Modern Mentoring and the Employee Life Cycle

Organizations can use modern mentoring to support employee development at all stages of the employee life cycle.

Entering: Onboarding is a natural starting place for modern mentoring — especially since many millennials will continue to enter the workforce in large numbers in the next decade. Upon entering the organization, employees of all ages naturally need many learning opportunities to help them gain the necessary knowledge to perform their new role. By engaging in social learning relationships, employees can connect with advisers and other peers to help them assimilate culturally as well as gain the right insights and skills to help accelerate their speed to performance.

Emerging: As employees mature, some will begin to emerge as natural leaders. Modern mentoring is a great way to support high potential leadership development and managerial programs. Instead of limiting who the best and brightest can learn from, organizations can allow these individuals to engage in all types of learning relationships, including those where natural leaders can practice leadership skills by advising others or learn from others who have already mastered those skills.
Organizations can use learning cohorts or mentoring groups to help make high potential, managerial or similar training stick by allowing participants to connect with their fellow trainees before, during and after training. This allows trainees to learn through each other’s applications, successes and failures with the material or subject at hand.

Expert: Once employees have developed to the point of being an expert in their area of focus, they can help facilitate the development of others. Experts can take on the role of adviser and engage in group mentoring to help other employees increase their level of skill in the expert employees’ area of mastery. It is important to keep in mind that experts will span generational, hierarchical and functional lines, because being an expert in an area doesn’t necessarily mean having years of experience. Experts on social media or other emerging market trends, for example, are more likely to be found at the bottom of the organization rather than at the top.

Exiting: Modern mentoring becomes a key practice for organizations to use to capture employees’ knowledge before they leave the organization due to retirement or attrition. It can be used in support of succession planning or other programs aimed at sharing tacit understandings and insights of members poised to exit. Organizations should use modern mentoring as a way to codify and reprocess implicit knowledge held by employees who will be exiting in 24 to 36 months so these individuals don’t walk out the door with knowledge that may be business critical. Mentoring or social learning groups in support of functional areas of the business — like understanding a particular product’s sales cycle or how research is best gathered for a specific industry — can help not only recycle knowledge held by soon-to-exit employees but also help employees across the life cycle to learn and develop.