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ATD Blog

The Value of Task-Based Mentors

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Collaborative learning has been shown to be one of the most effective types of learning. Enter task-based mentoring, or what some may call “flash mentoring.” Why should your organization embrace short-term mentoring relationships? Read on to find out.

The Value to Mentees

In a mentoring relationship, mentees get:

  • just-in-time, personalized learning on the topic where they need support
  • the opportunity to develop internal networks with individuals who might be in a different department, region, or business unit, which also helps with future cross-functional collaboration
  • the opportunity to learn from someone else, even when paired with someone on the same work team, which deepens the relationship and their respect for one another
  • the opportunity to be paired with different individuals across the organization.

The Value to Mentors

In a mentoring relationship, mentors can:

  • practice coaching or mentoring others on specific tasks
  • leverage their skills in this role in a short-term commitment mentor
  • “get” as well as “give” through teaching, bringing themselves to even higher levels of proficiency
  • find themselves with more of their work completed since teaching someone to do something you had to do anyway helps both of you (see example below)
  • experience the impact of helping others leverage their strengths


The Value to the Organization

Mentoring relationships within an organization benefits the business in numerous ways. Here are some examples:

  • Employees engaged with their work, either as a mentor or mentee, see their value and purpose grow within the organization. In fact, being assigned as a task-based mentor becomes both recognition and a reward.
  • Task-based mentoring requires almost no training or administration.
  • Task-based mentors expand your mentoring pool since nearly everyone has expertise in at least one task or skill.
  • Task-based mentoring streamlines the networking process through relationship building.
  • Task-based mentoring breaks down silos between departments, improving cross-functional and collaboration skills and ultimately improving organizational efficiency.
  • Task-based mentoring serves as a development vehicle when no formal learning exists or is not available in a timely manner, the skill can’t be well-learned through formal learning, and there is little defined formal or informal learning.
  • The organization builds its bench strength as a team, working together to pull each other up with little to no cost. At the same time, the process is creating stronger internal personal connections within and across departments and regions.

Successfully Implementing Task-Based Mentoring

So, assuming you buy into the value of this technique, how do you implement it?

  • You must have a role-based competency model.
  • Each person must self-assess against it with a competency assessment system. This creates the data that identifies who needs a mentor and who could be a mentor.
  • The competency assessment tool should make it easy for managers to identify their team members’ individual skills gaps and locate potential task-based mentors across the organization so they can be temporarily paired.
  • The mentor and the mentee should understand the scope of the relationship—to help increase one particular task or skill.
  • Time should be set aside for the two to work together on shadowing and practicing the specific behaviors that demonstrate the required proficiency for that skill.
  • The mentee should reassess on that skill following the opportunity to practice to demonstrate a change in skill, which becomes a positive reflection on the mentor and mentee.
  • The mentee’s manager should reassess them to confirm the target proficiency was achieved.

Bottom Line

Consider implementing task-based mentoring . . .

  • if you want to leverage the expertise you know exists within your organization
  • if you’re looking for a way to be a strength-based organization
  • if you want to increase employee engagement and satisfaction
  • if you want to drive cross-functional collaboration and organizational efficiency.

Mentoring Project Example

Data Analysis
The mentor needs to crunch some data for a project and identify trends and draw conclusions. The mentee has not done this work before in their present job. The mentor teaches the mentee how to create a pivot table and pivot charts and examine the data in different ways. The mentor shows a sample of a trend they spot from their initial look. The mentee continues to analyze the data using the new tools with oversight by the mentor. The mentee identifies what they believe are trends and why, and the mentor guides them as to the validity of their findings. They write up a summary of their analysis. The mentor completes their analysis and the mentee knows how to use data analysis tools, spot trends, and write conclusions.

About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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