How does your business train its young talent? Do you leave your employees on their own to grow their skills? Do you employ mentoring relationships to raise young leaders up within your organization? Are team projects your preferred means of developing skills like goal setting and management?
Upon graduation from the University of Illinois with a BS in Business Administration, I realized that I had relatively few marketable skills. My first job was working in computer printer retail sales. I had to become familiar very quickly with the specifications of over 50 computer printers, as well as understand the applications and computer compatibility of each of them. The two computer science courses and a couple of marketing classes I had taken did not adequately prepare me for success in this field. Nevertheless, my boss was convinced that taking young college graduates, training them quickly, and entrusting them with a great deal of responsibility was the best way to succeed in the sales of rapidly changing technology. Four of us were hired and trained by the CEO and his technicians, and within weeks we were sent out to the stores to learn sales skills in one-on-one relationships with the branch managers. I don’t think my boss had read studies about the best training methods or strategies. He just seemed to understand that the most effective way to train employees quickly was in personal relationships.
Successful mentoring relationships, those between people who can communicate their expectations clearly and have a mutual respect for one another, can have a lasting impact in the lives of both the mentor and the mentee. The most influential mentoring relationships, according to a recent survey conducted by the Internet Marketing Association, are parents, bosses, sought-after mentors, and teachers. These interpersonal relationships provide the mentee with the occasion to work closely and observe their mentors in everyday business situations. They receive direction as well as correction in a monitored setting. As trust is developed in these relationships, the mentor is free to give greater responsibility and less direction to the mentee – inevitably working toward a more equal division of labor.
Although group projects in a school setting might have been characterized by one person carrying the weight of the workload, in a business setting a team project can truly be a collaboration of efforts. According to Wendy Axelrod, PhD and author as well as recognized expert in manager-driven, work-centered people development, team projects are the best way to develop the greatest number of people at one time. In her article, ‘Leverage Your Team Projects for Talent Development,’ Axelrod shares that projects provide opportunities for members to:
- develop group problem solving skills
- grow in multiple disciplines
- encourage collaborative development
- expand perspectives that inspire new approaches
- desire to work with colleagues again
- continuously and comprehensively evaluate methods, performance, etc.
Wendy Axelrod encourages managers to regularly assign team projects. She maintains that if the experience positive, the members will be eager to participate again. Meeting and overcoming challenges successfully and taking advantage of the skills and abilities of all its members, is truly the goal of every organization.
How did your most exciting learning experience impact your future performance? Were you inspired by a teacher who was passionate about their subject? Perhaps you were a part of a group that challenged you to be your very best.
Whatever method of staff development you choose to employ in your workplace, research suggests that the key ingredient for success is involvement in purposeful personal relationships.
“New Internet Marketing Association Survey Addresses Importance of Mentoring in Empowering the Next Generation.” New Internet Marketing Association Survey Addresses Importance of Mentoring in Empowering… PR Newswire, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-internet-marketing-association-survey-addresses-importance-of-mentoring-in-empowering-the-next-generation-300145217.html>.
Axelrod, Wendy. “4 Steps to Turning Projects into Development Opportunities.” SmartBlogs. SmartBrief, 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2015/09/14/leverage-your-team-projects-for-talent-development/>.