Game chips falling from above

The chips begin to fall in this new economy

Let me get the obvious statement out of the way that things have been up in the air for a while on how talent development will get done differently moving forward. Carried on the currents of covid, recession, hybrid working and other uncertainties the normal rhythms of training calendars have been interrupted and organizations are taking a minute to think about how they want to proceed. In my travels around businesses and industries, I can see that the chips are starting to fall. Things are not going to snap back as they were, and yet people still gotta learn. The type of skill sharing we need to do is ever changing and ever deepening. The need for connection and support is a constant element.

Mentoring and Subject Matter Networks Over Traditional Training

Where do I see the organizations, people and networks going? I’ve been at this learning and development/talent/performance improvement since 1994. I can tell you that even then we talked about generic training as being somewhat problematic in terms of its ROI. People often had an enjoyable time and then forgot most of the content. We’ve all seen versions of “the forgetting curve” by now. Even when delivered in a learner sensitive and context rich way, flying people places to be in rooms for days of training has a dicy payback.

I know this directly because after being in training for many years, I drifted steadily toward mentoring and small group learning when I saw the metrics around the long term benefits of various learning and development activities. The speed and depth of knowledge uptake, usefulness and applicability have been demonstrated repeatedly for mentoring programs over many years at this point. Engagement in the learning and the organization are positively impacted and when people set goals for mentorship they almost always report back a sincere feeling of progress. If you’ve been following our blogs, you might have an inkling we’ve written about the ROI of mentoring before. So to update our view point and call in an objective “thought partner” (and hey, everyone is doing it), I asked AI (ChatGPT in this case) what it thought about the topic, and here is what it said …with my comments in orange italics.

Which has a better ROI? Mentoring or Training?

ChatGPT: Research suggests that mentoring programs often have a better return on investment (ROI) compared to traditional training programs.

Based on 16 years of research and 30 years of experience – I concur.

Here are some reasons supporting the higher ROI of mentoring:

1. Individualized Development: Mentoring provides personalized guidance tailored to the specific needs and goals of the mentee. This individualized approach helps mentees develop skills and knowledge directly relevant to their roles, resulting in more targeted and impactful learning outcomes.

Critical to move at the pace and in the chunks that the mentee can apply.

2. Knowledge Transfer and Experience: Mentoring leverages the mentor’s expertise and experience, providing mentees with practical insights and real-world examples that go beyond what can be taught in a training class. This experiential learning enhances the mentee’s problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills, leading to better performance and outcomes.

Small group sharing experiences and insights are more likely to be remembered!

3. Relationship Building and Retention: Mentoring fosters strong relationships between mentors and mentees. This connection enhances employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Studies have shown that organizations with effective mentoring programs experience higher employee retention rates, which reduces recruitment and training costs associated with high turnover.

At Pollinate we are convinced that getting good at knowledge sharing – both as a mentor and a mentee, is a key organizational competency.

4. Soft Skill Development: Mentoring often goes beyond technical skills and encompasses the development of soft skills such as communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence. These skills are crucial for professional success and are highly sought after by employers. Mentoring provides mentees with the opportunity to refine these skills in a supportive and personalized setting.

Mentoring enables teaching technical while ALSO modelling soft skills – multiple benefits for the same time spent.

5. Continuous Learning and Growth: Mentoring relationships typically span a longer duration, enabling ongoing support and learning opportunities. This sustained engagement promotes continuous development, skill enhancement, and career progression, leading to greater long-term ROI compared to the relatively short-term impact of training classes.

It’s a rare event that truly changes behaviour. Sustained attention and intestine with social support is a winning combination for real growth.

While both mentoring and training can contribute to personal and professional development, mentoring’s personalized guidance, knowledge transfer, relationship building, and holistic approach often result in a higher ROI.

Thank you ChatGPT.

Have I seen training programs that actually changed people’s way of thinking? Sure, some. The best training I have seen has a message that stays with people that they refer back to. I’ve far less frequently seen training that changed someone’s behaviour and directly affected people’s ability to achieve what they wanted to achieve.

A young leader could attend an exciting week-long training program, get a slew of new ideas and contacts, and after try to pick up one or two of the ideas and hopefully maintain a contact; will it change their way of leading? Statistically, it’s unlikely. Turns out, like walking and driving and other things we learn to do, implementing new technical or leadership skills requires multiple applications with support and insight. One thing that is similar between mentoring and training is that while there are disciplines and best practices, there is also scope to be creative. While Mentoring programs should always have a purpose-built core, pairs and groups can be formed and commissioned in different ways.

How do you ensure that you are getting all of the benefits you should out of your mentoring program? And what kind of mentoring works best for what situation?

Stay tuned for our summer series on the many ways to mentor!



Christy Pettit is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Pollinate Networks Inc.

For 25 years, Christy has developed new approaches and best practices for agile, effective organizations worldwide. She is an expert on matching people and organizations for applications including knowledge transfer and mentorship programs, flexible virtual and hybrid teams, and productive organizational and business ecosystems and networks.




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