The Power of Peers in Modern Mentoring

Randy Emelo
Written by
Randy Emelo

Mentoring Software Brings the Practice to More People

How many of the following do you wish your employees did automatically or naturally?

  • Engage in self-directed learning
  • Create adaptable and flexible development networks
  • Learn in collaborative ways across functions, levels, and geography
  • Share and generate new ideas with colleagues

Peer Mentoring

Most of us wish that people who worked at our companies just knew how to do these things.  It would certainly make our jobs easier.  But most people aren’t natural networkers or proactive learners.  They rely on us to show them how to do it and to give them the means with which to accomplish their goals.

One way we can support our employees is through mentoring networks.  People need a flexible network that can shift as their learning needs evolve—and that they can give back to as well as their skills and knowledge grow.  Most people will seek out their peers for these mentoring networks because they feel comfortable with these individuals and feel like they will be able to help them.  In fact, peers are often a great fit for mentoring networks because of three reasons.

1. Contextual Understanding

In today’s knowledge economy, workers need less generalized content and more relevant understanding of how to apply content and knowledge back on the job in the proper context.  With information overload a reality in our lives, how can people know which piece of data is best suited for their circumstances?  More and more people now use a micro-learning approach where they collaborate with people in their network around a short abstract, video, skill brief, and the like.  This lets people shift from too much content and too much confusion on where to find what they need, to instead focus on quick application of targeted knowledge in the right context.  Learners get a true knowledge or skill need met by being able to apply the right information in the proper context of their jobs.

2. Similar Outlook

People in a company who share a similar title are organizational peers; for example, managers in various departments can be considered managerial peers.  They may work in different functions, but they have similar responsibilities related to their job levels.  These peers understand the pressures, realities, limitations, and expectations associated with a certain level of responsibility in the company.  Because of this, they make ideal advisors for people in similar roles.  Peers can bring new insights to learning relationships that someone at a different organizational level may not have.  They can also provide the right context for each other because they experience comparable situations.  This comes into play particularly when making plans to meet organizational goals.

3. Diverse Perspectives

Group CollaborationWhile connecting with peers who have a similar outlook can be helpful, these same peers can also provide a colleague with a unique perspective because they come from different fields and backgrounds.  For example, a supervisor in customer service may be able to share new ideas on client interactions with a supervisor in marketing.  These colleagues have the same level of authority in the organization, so they understand similar pressures and expectations due to their roles.  However, because their expertise areas differ, cross-functional peers can help one another innovate, brainstorm, generate ideas, and gain fresh or unique perspectives.  This is particularly beneficial when trying to reach organizational goals.

Organizations that provide ways for peers to connect and share with one another in learning relationships can positively impact engagement and can combat feelings of isolation and under-appreciation.  In fact, a 2014 Recognition Trends Report by Quantum Workplace showed that access to new learning and training opportunities is the second most desirable form of recognition for engaged employees, coming in only after a pay increase.

A pay increase is not always feasible, but there is a way for companies to show their appreciation and give employees what they want: modern mentoring opportunities.  By providing the structure, tools, and software employees need to build modern mentoring networks, you will be positively impacting their engagement, giving them a way to gain social support, and helping them increase their competency and skill areas.

How do are you developing workers for jobs where the knowledge, competencies, and relationships needed change almost constantly?  Tweet at me using my handle, @remelo, to let me know.

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