Reimagining Mentorship: A Product Capability Deep Dive
Through cohort-based learning, NovoEd drives alignment between learners and their peers and learners and the business. In hybrid and remote work, organizations have to be more intentional than ever about creating this alignment, what Ron Carucci described in Harvard Business Review as “configuring all of the organization’s assets in the service of your stated strategy and making sure there is no confusion about what each part of the organization does to bring it to life.” This clarity and precision is challenging for a team, let alone a division or a whole enterprise to attain, in a VUCA business environment. There is no substitute for the imprint of personal relationships that contextualize learning and ground it in the reality of the business. One-to-one connections that make learning social and deeply personal need to be created at scale.
Mentorship, whether formal or informal, is a way to intentionally create these connections. As a social and collaborative learning company, NovoEd is deeply committed to mentorship, fusing productized insights from users with proven learning science and enterprise rigor. NovoEd believes that feedback and involvement in learning is a more critical capability than matching people and scheduling meetings (the attributes most superficially associated with mentoring); meeting in itself does not generate value. In this sense, mentoring is a flexible concept and can be actively and continually interpreted. For example, it can occur within a specific journey (tied to a program) as well as at the overall organizational level (an arrangement spanning the whole journey).
At a micro level, online mentoring empowers learners with consistent feedback and guidance, contextualized in the business and woven into the flow of learning, putting internal expertise to use through shared experiences. Scaling this dynamic at the enterprise level force-multiplies the connectedness in an organization. Mentorship may strike some as a nice-to-have or may conjure associations of mandatory HR programs that don’t move the needle for business results, but, in truth, is incredibly multifaceted and intricate, enriching multiple parties at any given moment. The mentor can transfer and document her knowledge/deep capability; the learner can receive the wisdom in the frame of a one-to-one relationship; and the organization can use analytics to make educated decisions about interventions and resource deployment. The applications are numerous and touch every facet of corporate life from Leadership to Onboarding to Digital Transformation and Sustainability programs.
At a macro level, mentoring is not one-size-fits-all: mentoring at McKinsey is not the same thing as mentoring at Caterpillar. The sharing of organizational knowledge is specific and unique to the company, but also to the goals of the individual mentor and mentee. In some cases, the program may need to be run by HR, in some cases by the business unit. Sometimes it’s cross-functional, sometimes cross-hierarchy and sometimes an expression of mobility and growth paths. For example, mentoring can be the path to leadership development (a soft test to see whether you can become a leader, a way to learn the critical skills of being accountable for someone else’s development). In this sense, it can look similar to “internal coaching.”
On a macro level, mentoring can also be an efficient way to generate collective wisdom or crystallize institutional thought. At NovoEd, mentoring has been used to generate ideas and innovation in a population at scale, whether a different approach to performance reviews or a new implementation of design thinking. In all these ways, mentoring can be a real strategy for remote and hybrid learning that actualizes culture and workplace principles while upskilling and connecting at scale.
How does mentoring work in the context of a well-known use case like Employee Onboarding? In Onboarding, a learner is actively mentored by a supervisor, by senior leaders, and perhaps by an “onboarding buddy” or seasoned peer. This jumpstarts the employee’s career in a multi-dimensional way where they are immediately woven into the fabric of the organization.
Here at NovoEd, we believe that the concept of “mentorship” is in its infancy and can still be actively interpreted to meet the needs of organizations and learners. Far from being lofty dispensers of wisdom and experience, mentors can be on the receiving end as well in the arrangement and actively participate in the shared learning experience. Here are just a few of the variations enabled in the platform: mentors can be enrolled as learners while they are mentors; supervisors can have structured roles as mentors as well as mentees; participants can also have more than one mentor. In this way, mentoring becomes a dynamic and fluid concept.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the rich data and measurement that such programs yield and the penetrating insight into how social relationships and interactions drive the business. In the NovoEd platform, analytics answer questions like: How often are people checking in? What is the content of the engagement? What combinations and arrangements yield the best outcomes? We can access that programmatic data at the org level, team level, and individual program level. And more importantly, extrapolate from the data and integrate it with other data sets. You can view this data in the dashboard itself, export and manipulate it, or pull it into your business intelligence tool.
Thoughtful administrative features also drive this elegant and enterprise-level scaling. Users can set automated workflows that inform the mentor of key data requiring action like assignments that need to be approved, feedback that needs to be issued, and certificates that should be awarded. Mentors are prompted to share exemplar work product that may inspire others and can be included in a work gallery that consolidates company thought. Critical in a social and collaborative learning platform where communication settings need to be incredibly nuanced: you can mix and match privileges and permissions, such as seeing flagged content for participants and deciding whether it should be deleted.
An interesting twist that further connects mentoring with work product: analytics can be used to evaluate output at scale and its degree of alignment with the business. For example, perhaps you already have identified your success criteria, the desired program outcomes. You can create a consistent rubric according to which all work/learning product (slides, documents, videos) can be evaluated by mentors. This empowers you to tell at a glance if the output across thousands of entries aligns with the core mission and if the program is moving the needle for the business.
How does mentoring work in your broader HR system? Seamless productized integration means reporting for the organization, specific business units, and individualized learner profiles is automatically updated through regular syncs, eliminating the need for file imports and heavy lifting. The entire mentoring experience is streamlined and transparent, conducive to building an ROI case and buy-in from all company stakeholders.
Ultimately, all this deep functionality is paired with intuitive user design for all personas (learners, mentors, designers, administrators, executives). Every feature requires as few clicks as possible to integrate the fluid sharing of knowledge into the continuous flow of work. The interface is consumer-grade, modern, and user-friendly, driving the active and dynamic interpretation of mentoring as an organizational concept.
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