ATD Blog

Unlock Agency Success with Modern Mentoring

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Employee loyalty. Workforce productivity. Customer loyalty. High Revenues. 

What organization doesn’t want these types of coveted results? None that I can think of. But now comes the harder question: How can we achieve these results?

According to the 2013 Employee Engagement Trends Report from Quantum Workplace, the answer lies in employee engagement, which they found strongly correlates with each of these keys to organizational success. Its Employee Development Planning Report suggests that to keep employees engaged, organizations must increase learning and development opportunities. The study points to the fact that engaged employees perceive such opportunities as the second highest form of preferred recognition, preceded only by pay increase. 

With this information in mind, it seems critical that we take steps to increase and sustain workforce engagement levels by engraining continuous learning and development into the culture of our organizations.

This is where the practice of modern mentoring enters the picture and can become a key driver of employee engagement. Simply put, modern mentoring is connecting people to learn from one another about learning needs, skills, interest areas, and competencies that are relevant to their daily work. This is not your father’s mentoring (a.k.a. traditional mentoring), which is categorized by one-to-one relationships that last years and typically consist of one older mentor who sponsors and develops one younger mentee. 

Modern mentoring means enabling your workforce to connect with one another via technology for learning and development that occurs in a just-in-time fashion, and it affects the daily work-related productivity of participants.  When people are effective at critical peer interactions, such as those that occur with modern mentoring, average engagement capital can improve by 66 percent, according to The Power of Peers from the Corporate Leadership Council.


Yes, I am telling you that in addition to increasing engagement, your organization can use modern mentoring as a way to spread knowledge, increase productivity, and serve as just-in-time performance support for your employees. Sounds pretty good, right? 

Pillars of modern mentoring

Think modern mentoring might be a worthy development option for your employees?  When implementing the practice at your agency, be sure to build it around these four pillars.

Open and egalitarian. For uninhibited and meaningful learning to take place, allow modern mentoring to occur in an open environment where people have equal access to one another. Expand thinking about mentoring beyond programs with limited populations, and start thinking about how to give your workforce access to engage with one another.


Diverse. Diversity can help modern mentoring thrive because different perspectives within mentoring communities and relationships help novel ideas and approaches arise in answer to organizational problems or issues people are facing.  Cross-functional, cross-geographical, and cross-generational participation in modern mentoring relationships are key to this practice. 

Flexible. People should be allowed and encouraged to shift in and out of the mentoring program and of the learner and advisor roles themselves, as learning needs and knowledge strengths evolve. This adaptability and flexibility allows insights to be shared and applied on the job in a just-in-time manner, with people seeing real work results from their mentoring activities. 

Self-directed and personal. Adults want to drive their own learning. Give them a technology to use or a mechanism where they can reach out to anyone at any time for any learning need. This empowers individuals to be in control of their learning and removes some of the burden from L&D professionals.

If you build your organization’s practice around these key pillars and properly enable modern mentoring at your organization, you will find that the social learning behaviors that it produces will become ubiquitous. In this way, modern mentoring can help you create a culture built on continual learning and development, which can help you sustain and increase the engagement of your agency’s workforce and unlock the keys to organizational success produced by high engagement as a result.

Want to know more? Join me on March 19 for the webinar, “Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture.”  Register here

About the Author

Randy Emelo is the founder and chief strategist at River, a Denver-based company that builds mentoring and social learning software. He has more than 25 years of experience in management, training, and leadership development, and is a prolific author, speaker, and thought leader on topics related to collaboration, mentoring, social learning, and talent development.

Throughout the years, Randy has embarked on a military career with the U.S. Navy, led leadership development work with nonprofits in the Americas, and helped Fortune 500 companies build mentoring and learning cultures in their organizations.

Randy holds a master’s degree in organizational design and effectiveness from Fielding Graduate University (formerly The Fielding Institute) in Santa Barbara, CA. Randy’s book, Modern Mentoring, is available now from ATD Press. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter @remelo.

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