Mentoring: Fixing the Skills Gap through Knowledge Transfer


Learning Through Other GraphicEvery job has one very important thing in common—job-specific knowledge. And implementing an effective plan for knowledge transfer between employees plays a critical part in the long-term success and efficiency of any organization.

At any given company, the workforce is made up of people who specialize in different tasks. In addition, veteran employees often have a vast knowledge bank just waiting to be tapped by newer employees. Documentation can be very useful for onboarding new employees or for training an employee to cover a specific task, but it can only go so far in transferring knowledge and skills.

The Importance of Knowledge Transfer

A well-established organization can use mentoring to reap the full benefits of knowledge transfer. However, you might be surprised by how many companies overlook the importance of cultivating best practices for knowledge transfer. Here are some of the reasons why knowledge transfer is so important in today’s workforce:

1. According to SHRM, baby boomers are set to retire, taking a massive amount of skills and knowledge with them

2. Sixty-two percent of employers at Fortune 1000 companies believe future retirements will result in skilled labor shortages over the next five years (HireVue)

3. Seventy-five percent of millennials want a mentor, and 58 percent of them turn to baby boomers first for advice (HireVue)

4. By the year 2020, there will be a possible worldwide shortage of 13 percent of highly skilled, college-educated employees, equaling around 38 to 40 million workers (Dobbs and Madgavkar)

For many companies today, the looming possibility of the lack of knowledge and skills in tomorrow’s workforce has become a mission-critical issue. Basic employee training has its limits and results in lower retention of learning. Many organizations wonder how to best train new employees in a shorter amount of time with a learning method that results in knowledge retention. That’s where mentoring comes in.

Mentoring for Knowledge Transfer

As organizations realize the depth of their talent predicament, many are choosing to develop strategic talent pipelines. Eight out of ten organizations told a ManPowerGroup survey they are “taking the steps to grow the talent pool and ensure access to the rights skills that will help drive business results.”

Here at Chronus, we see an ever-increasing number of companies employ a mentoring style of learning as a powerful way to address knowledge transfer needs. It’s a great on-the-job tool that can be effectively used to :

  • Transfer knowledge from seasoned employees to newer employees
  • Reinforce current skills of both mentor and mentee
  • Establish camaraderie in the workplace

Organizations with a workforce set to retire soon may especially benefit from mentoring programs aimed at organizational knowledge retention. For example, manufacturer Boston Scientific employed a mentoring program to transfer knowledge and skills from their senior workforce to younger employees. The knowledge they had was crucial to the company’s operations, so the company had to find a way to train younger workers to do the same job.

Boston Scientific used a strategic mentoring plan to transfer skills and knowledge. Using software, they track, measure, and assess the effectiveness of their programs, adapting them to suit individual’s career and learning goals. Not only does the firm address their employee’s needs, but they’re also addressing their own business needs in retaining skill competency and growing their business.

How Mentoring Relates to the Learning

Solo methods of learning can only take an employee so far. The majority of people retain knowledge better both by being teachers themselves and by learning from a real person – which is exactly what mentoring enables.

Mentoring is a high-retention style of learning which encourages people to learn how they learn best—directly from experts in an organization.

While short-term training is still important, we see organizations today moving toward a more blended approach, putting classroom or online learning up front, before progressing to longer term mentoring programs to reinforce learning and skill development afterward. It’s a win-win learning approach for organizations and employees to leverage baby boomer knowledge, loop in millennials, and ramp up productivity to take advantage of an improving economy.

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