Mentorship, or the alliance established between colleagues to facilitate skills transfer and learnership, has grown in popularity. Experts in the field of human resource development suggest that this form of skills transfer and application has evolved into a critical aspect of the modern corporate HR strategy, writes Teryl Schroenn, CEO at Accsys.
What is a mentorship?
Mentorship is a tried and tested method of skills development and application in industry. It can take various forms, but essentially involves an "apprentice-style" scenario in which one person learns a trade from a more experienced colleague, who leads by example.
The core principle of mentorship is that it is based on the establishment and nurturing of a business relationship between a person who wants to develop their skills, abilities and knowledge, and someone who has the experience and skills to show best practices.
Why does it work?
Many HR specialists agree that mentorship works because it involves a hands-on, practical approach. This means that people are placed directly in the work environment and are shown precisely what to do and what not to do in order to be more competent.
What are the positives?
A significant advantage of a mentorship programme is that people are trained correctly from the outset, and are therefore of immediate value to the company or employer. This is also considered a more cost-effective form of training and skills development because it fast tracks individuals through a one-to-one scenario, rather than a one-to-many.
A positive byproduct is the learning curve for the mentor can be equally beneficial. Furthermore, by transferring skills and ensuring that these are put into practice, the company’s intellectual capital is enriched.
Using this methodology ensures that not only hard skills are transferred, but also an understanding of the company culture and methodologies, as well as operational and general business practices.
Other more subtle positives are that mentorship can often foster strong bonds within a company and help to reinforce the team dynamic. A more organised, tighter-bound and focused unit will ultimately perform better than a number of individuals who do not have a common purpose.
What are the challenges?
For any mentorship programme to be successful, it has to have the buy-in of those directly involved – as well as management. This is not an immediate, overnight solution. For any degree of success, effort, time, commitment and patience is required. Mentor and mentee need to be aligned and moving towards a common objective.
The success of mentorship is determined by aspects such as trust, mutual respect, communication and effort. Like any programme or business initiative there are challenges, and one of the main ones is matching up people who have different personalities and may have differing skills sets.
Major discrepancies in this matching process could impact the overall programme and impede skills development and related progress.
The direction forward
Judging by current levels of interest in mentorship programmes and related consultation, it is evident that mentorship will continue to take root in local business development strategy and application.
Communication and interaction between a mentor and their student or apprentice is essential if the system is to develop and produce results for companies that embrace this form of people development.