Mentoring is not a new idea – we’ve all encountered apprentices in many different situations, where a less experienced person is being guided or given support “on the job” by someone more experienced. It’s a popular method of training and often provides a balance of practical experiences that allow individuals to understand more thoroughly not just how to accomplish a task, but how to do it effectively in a safe environment where they can be assured of support. Often an apprentice will be placed with someone for an extended period, allowing their mentor to gain a better understanding of them as people – their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, ambitions.
By now, I’m sure that many of you are already thinking of traditional or practical jobs such as plumbers, electricians and technicians. I wonder how many of you are thinking about your own role, and the way that your organisation delivers training? Leading a successful team within any organisation will by necessity involve some form of mentoring or coaching role. In this context, not all “apprentices” are equal – some may well have more experience in the job than you, however, they will still need effective management and coaching to enable them to contribute to the overall aims of the firm, whether by meeting their sales targets, being able to provide appropriate advice to clients, or by developing their own skills to prepare them for the next step in their career.
In less ”practical” businesses, the importance and role of middle managers in delivering training is often overlooked when training programmes are being developed, potentially wasting a valuable training resource. After all, the middle managers are the individuals that are best placed to know about the learners in their own teams and business units, from their interests and skills to the learning styles that work well with individuals.
By engaging with middle managers, training programmes are no longer an abstract concept being pushed down from the “top” or the “training team” within the organisation but will become part of the work needed from the learner’s own team. Ensuring that managers are competent and comfortable with the concepts and topics to be delivered, and providing them with additional support – even if only signposting them to people and resources that may help – can make a real difference to the way in which training is received.
By working together, the training team is also empowering the middle managers to take responsibility for their learners and shows that their role and feedback is valued within the firm. Utilising the time and skills of middle managers effectively will also provide a valuable additional support resource for the training team. By being able to handle questions and advise learners more confidently and competently themselves, fewer queries are likely to be referred to the training team, allowing for more time to provide support to those who need it the most, and enabling more targeted and productive interventions without needing more resources.
The Development Zone provides a range of tools and resources to help you empower your middle managers – from being able to monitor and review progress of their learners, through to training on management techniques and styles for different situations. We also believe that learners of all levels can be empowered by learning about how to use the tools available to them effectively – the DevZone Academy provides over forty modules to help, inform and inspire learners to get the most from the Development Zone.