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ATD Blog

How to Use Mentoring to Upskill Your Employees for the Future of Work

Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Brought to you by chronus

Today’s evolving world of digitization and automation is keeping companies on their toes when it comes to finding the right talent to meet the challenges of the new decade. But as the battle for talent wages on, companies are overlooking a prime source for growth: their existing employees. According to a Josh Bersin report, it can cost as much as six times more to hire from the outside than to build from within. With this in mind, industry leaders should be looking for better ways to reskill their current workforce.

Rather than turning to layoffs and buyouts to make way for the new skills needed in their industry, some organizations are turning to this new or renewed development focus. Last year, 59 percent of L&D leaders reskilled 10 to 20 percent of their workforce, according to Udemy’s 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report: The Skills of the Future. As companies prepare to tackle the challenges of automation, reskilling workers becomes an opportunity to upcycle talent while creating a more open mind toward innovation within the workplace. The report calls out that a reskilling strategy allows “employees to see automation in a positive light” and likewise view their employer’s investment in the workforce as a favorable step for the future and development of existing employees.

As with any form of education, there are still pitfalls to watch out for when it comes to reskilling. Without the right structure and reinforcement, reskilling can become scrap learning just like anything else. Scrap learning—learning that is not applied back to the business—can make up 45 percent of training budgets. To combat scrap learning, reskilling must be supportive and experiential and hold employees accountable. To build this, progressive companies are turning to modern mentoring.


Mentoring supplements training programs to better support employees in retaining the knowledge and skills needed to meet new objectives. Mentoring connects people, allowing them to learn from each other. This connection creates accountability by providing mentors and mentees with an opportunity to enact a plan for implementing training into their work routines. This ongoing connection also provides consistent reinforcement needed to ensure new skills stick with employees. These mentoring formats are helping companies leverage their existing talent to meet the needs of the future:

  • Flash Mentoring: With so many things competing for employee time and attention in the modern workplace, flash mentoring is a one-time engagement that provides a focused opportunity for busy employees to learn new skills. It allows organizations to support employees by pairing them with a person who can give them expert insight or experiential training in a must-have skill for the future, whether it be SQL coding, new CRM reporting, or storytelling.
  • Reverse Mentoring: Junior employees mentor senior employees in a one-on-one or group setting. This mentoring format builds accountability by assigning both the mentee and mentor with the task of sharing skills and knowledge with each other and reinforcing learning objectives organization-wide. Skills within this type of mentoring format can include sharing new customer service processes and challenges with senior executives or showcasing innovations happening on the employee front lines with managers as they build their strategies and processes for the coming year.
  • Mentoring Circles: This group mentoring format enables employees to develop together by joining with colleagues in their organization who share learning objectives. Circle members choose a relevant topic or skill for group discussion over three to six months and assist in supporting each other while holding each other accountable. Circles can also be a great way to build soft skills within an organization, whether it be emotional intelligence or change management. This social opportunity to connect and grow can tear down organizational silos among departments, functions, or seniority levels.

ATD’s Mentoring Matters report found that within organizations that had formal mentoring programs in place, nearly six in 10 participants indicated that their programs were effective at helping to meet learning goals to a high or very high extent. Through mentoring, companies can build a reskilling strategy that meets the evolving needs of the business and the employee experience, all while optimizing the workforce in which they’ve already invested.

About the Author

Amanda Schnieders is a senior marketing manager at Chronus. A believer in the innovative capabilities of the modern workplace, she focuses on how human engagement can improve employee productivity and growth in an organization.

Her work in entrepreneurship with the Kauffman Foundation and the power of mentoring in her current role has provided her with insights into the key factors of the workplace today—mentoring, development, inclusion and support. In pursuance of these elements as, she helps organizations work smarter to retain their employees in an engaged and productive workplace.

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