3 Ways to Leverage Online Mentoring

With today’s technology to build just-in-time learning for immediate impact, leaders can leverage online mentoring programs to empower individuals with technical resources to strengthen their skills. Since most people are turning to the Web to get answers, why not capture, organize and structure the best resources on the Web for easier and smarter access?

That is exactly what some organizations such as pharmaceutical company Santen Inc. and talent assessment company TalentMine are doing to become more efficient. By documenting lessons learned in a search and drill-down approach, these organizations are better able to prevent reinventing the wheel. For example, there should be a standard programming technique for summarizing clinical data that can be copied from a template instead of completely rewriting the program.

Successful online mentoring programs welcome users with an easy-to-navigate menu system and a built-in cross-reference index. To customize online mentoring systems, leaders can capture their employees’ favorite websites, images, structure and knowledge. With a click of the mouse, new employees can access process flow charts to show technical details.

Ideally, mentoring programs generally consist of three components — leveraging experience with job aid guides, indexing best practice resources, and using forums and frequently asked questions. Within the organization, industry experts build and maintain consistency and direction of each component.

1. Leverage experience by creating job aid guides, or summary cheat sheets, to prevent reinventing the wheel. For the computer programming industry, for example, five programming e-guides were created to contain chunks of technical information in a logical and concise format with internal and external hyperlinks for cross-reference.

In these e-guides, along with real-world programs as examples, images are included to help associate each program task such as data access, data management and data analysis.

Research has shown that visual images with drill-down capability simulate how our brains process large and complex data. Based on a small informal survey of pharmaceutical industry professionals during a typical work week, there may be up to 80 percent of tasks that are repetitive in some form that require detailed steps to be followed in sequence. A checklist helps to assure that not only all steps are completed, but in the expected order.

Instead of trying to remember all of the key details, why not document and translate the tasks to more meaningful instructions from employees’ perspectives? Not only will this simple technique increase their success rate without making any mistakes, but they will then start to gain insights into how their routine job can become more creative by automatically remembering key details, identifying suggestions for improving the process and expanding their knowledgebase to learn more.

Leaders know that these job aid guides serve as an extension to departmental standard operating procedures. For example, to standardize the technique to read data, it is more efficient to click on the e-guide, then do an online search for the data access section to display programming code that can be copied.

2. Master the fundamentals. Most everything requires having a thorough understanding of the basics before advancing. With information overload on the Internet, there is no reason for professionals not to access this often free information. By building an online personal productivity platform, professionals can take advantage of free resources for their professional advancement. Smarter leaders take advantage of tools to help their employees access their favorite technical websites and images in their personalized structure along with capturing their knowledge.

For example, in most industries, there should be available a collection of top papers from conferences, articles or blogs. Within the online system, by organizing papers into employees’ meaningful categories, employees are better able to use them when they need them most.

With popular membership-based and social bookmarking websites, just about anyone can create a robust website full of links to relevant papers for any topic, product or service. In addition, often there is flexibility to add images, videos and insights to enhance understanding.

Continuous education and certification training should be scheduled regularly to reinforce, for example, applications of techniques and software options. Having a mentor with industry-related experience can drastically reduce the learning curve and fill in gaps to higher productivity.

3. Collaborate with peers. By actively participating in professional forums or blogs within the mentor system, for example, members can post their question or issue by category for other members to contribute their suggestions. This simple process not only stimulates the members to jog their memories, but also builds camaraderie within the industry. Often if members have experienced a related issue, they can offer potential solutions.

Often, members can get all this advice for free and usually within days without an appointment. By building friendships and expertise within their industry community, members too will be able to continue sharing tips based on their experience. Once a knowledge base is established, then searches can be performed against frequently asked questions for easy reference.

Usually, employees have common questions that can be shared and updated as needed. Solutions to these FAQs can be linked to papers or references for more details.

About the Author:

Sunil Gupta is the best-selling author of “Sharpening Your SAS Skills,” a global corporate trainer and founder of SASSavvy.com and Gupta Programming. Reprinted from Talent Management Magazine

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