Organizations are made up of a group of people brought together for a common purpose. Therefore, organizations are socially constructed realities. They exist in the minds of its members. Knowledge is a key asset that allows organizations to compete in the marketplace. Knowledge only exists in the minds of the people in the organization, and built up over time through relationships. How is this knowledge transferred to other people in the organization?
Knowledge can be seen as being acquired through experience and through learning. Learning is the product that results through knowledge acquisition and experience. As new knowledge is acquired and applied in work situations a behavior change should occur. This behavior change is learning and can be seen as a source of new knowledge to be applied and tested in the work setting. Therefore, learning is a continuous process. With learning being a continuous process, we need to create opportunities where individuals can make unique contributions to the organization.
These unique contributions can emerge from mentoring and storytelling.
A mentor is typically a senior member of an organization who provides support, coaching, feedback, acceptance, and friendship. A mentor creates opportunities for exposure, provides challenging and educational assignments, and serves as a role model or counselor. Let’s take a consulting company as an example. A typical consulting company is set up to have a senior consultant working on teams with junior consultants. The junior consultants tend to make the presentations to the clients. This relationship is further solidified during the after hours where both the mentor and protégé create more personal relationships, such as meeting after hours for drink at the nearby bar. Most mentor relationships develop informally overtime. Research shows that the willingness to mentor is higher for those managers who had been a mentor or a protégé and had good relationships with their supervisors.
A typical mentor is one who is an expert who draws on his years of experience to extrapolate what works and what doesn’t work. Experts are able to express their knowledge using “rules of thumb.” They know the rules, they know how to get around the rules, and they know when there are exceptions to the rule.
Much of human learning happens through the vicarious experience of others. That is people learn incidentally by casual dialogue. One way mentoring can be effectively used is through the concept of role models. However, it is only as effective as the support by the organization. The processes of socialization can be aided or hindered by the organization. In some organizations, mentoring is seen by management as a form of fraternization, and therefore prohibited. Role Models can facilitate learning by allowing learning by observation and imitation, and positively reinforces socially acceptable behavior. Mentors teach norms of behavior and convey knowledge about the organization’s values. A mentor needs to display him or herself as an embodied symbol. A phrase such as “look right, be right” comes to mind. Your protégé or even other employees look up to you as a role model for doing the right things and behaving in the right way. If the protégé sees the mentor on the sales floor greeting and talking to customers, the protégé will imitate that behavior. In this way, the mentor is communicating the value of being passionately focused on customer value. The mentor/protégé relationship is about practicing what you preach.
About The Author
Nick Roy is an HR Researcher, Consultant, and freelance business writer. He currently holds a Master of Business Administration and Master of Arts in Human Resources Management from Hawaii Pacific University, and a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from Florida Metropolitan University, Fort Lauderdale. He is also currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Organizational Change from Hawaii Pacific University, with theses research on “The Impact of Technology on Human Resources and Organization Effectiveness.”