Balancing Mentorship And eLearning In A Digital Age

Balancing Mentorship And eLearning In A Digital Age
Summary: Have you ever started a new job and felt like you were just thrown into the deep end to either sink or swim? If so, you aren’t alone. Here, we’ll take a look at the problems facing those in the process of acclimating, before examining one of the best ways to help these newcomers: Balancing mentorship and eLearning.

Balancing Mentorship And eLearning: The 70:20:10 Problem 

According to a concept known as the 70-20-10 problem, 70 percent of our job knowledge comes from jumping in and just doing a task, 20 percent comes from observing others, and 10 percent comes from formal educational activities. On the surface, this may appear to support the concept of throwing a new employee into the deep end and letting them learn the ropes on their own. Oftentimes, what we actually get is a pool of floundering new hires with the potential to make some serious mistakes due to lack of proper integration.

On the other end of the spectrum, some companies have taken advantage of the digital technology and turned to eLearning as a means to impart information to new employees. eLearning courses have undeniable benefits, including:

  • Cost savings.
  • Consistent, accurate information and delivery style.
  • Complete overview and big picture training.
  • The ability to prepare employees for hands on work by breaking intimidating processes down into small bites.

Just requiring the completion of digital modules and expecting these employees to retain the necessary knowledge is a pipe dream, however, because most of us will lose approximately 50 percent of what we learn unless we actively apply it. Enter the combination of mentorship and eLearning.

Mentoring Programs 

Some establishments stress the “20” part of the equation by offering some degree of mentorship or observational training by a peer or supervisor. Training through mentorship is beneficial in several ways:

  • New employees can experience hands-on problem solving under the guidance of an experienced worker.
  • Newcomers feel less isolated as they integrate into the company culture.
  • A mentor can provide career advice as someone who has already been there.

While the combination of tutoring and hands-on learning may be an effective learning strategy, this method has its drawbacks as well. Personal attention to the new hire can take the trainer away from their work, and personal biases and bad habits might be passed on to inexperienced employees through training programs that are entirely one-on-one.

Balancing 20-10 For A More Effective 70

In an effort to balance the learning process and produce better prepared workers, some companies have adopted an integrated system that balances mentorship and eLearning. This has proven an effective way to both impart knowledge and help trainees retain the information so they can put it to practical use when they begin working on their own.

The process to integrate these learning systems involves three things: A mentor, eLearning modules, and a bridge to bring the mentoring and eLearning systems together.

This bridge can be in the form of a learning journal or checklist that can update everyone involved on the progress being made by the new employee. The journal might include some or all of the following components:

  • A training schedule to let the new hire know what to expect and that can be checked or signed off by the mentor as they progress.
  • A list of proficiencies with a self-assessment tool to give the learner a way to measure their progress.
  • A handbook, which enumerates the steps and processes necessary to complete the training. This keeps the training on schedule and assures that nothing is overlooked. It can also include quizzes or questions that cover what has been learned through each module.

The Process 

To take full advantage of this integrated method, the 70-20-10 concept is virtually reversed: It looks more like 10-20-70. The process is broken down into small modules that will be covered through a series of three steps:

  1. The first step is the eLearning module. The employee completes the electronic course which may conclude with a short quiz or series of questions on what was covered.
  2. Afterward, the learner meets with the mentor to ask questions that cover the module and how it relates to the actual work environment.
  3. The employee is then allowed to put the knowledge they acquired from the eLearning module and the mentor discussion into practice thorough hands-on experience.

This process is repeated until the training is complete. The journal will help track progress and act as a permanent reference guide the employee can refer back to when questions arise on previously covered topics.

By combining technology with personal attention, the training can be easily adapted to the individual and their particular learning style. The combination of mentorship and eLearning also helps keep the focus on the end goal of producing a quality workforce through effective training, rather than focusing on just getting them through the program.

eLearning has opened up an effective, practical way to provide consistent, low-cost employee training and continuing education. Still, even the most sophisticated digital training will only be partially retained unless it’s put to use. Adding the human component to balance the process gives your company a greater return on their investment and your up-and-coming superstar the chance to stand out as a well-trained, competent worker.