Online Mentoring

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Online Mentoring


Solving the Training-Performance Improvement Dilemma with Online Mentoring

Opening Paragraph

If you find it difficult to get your people to apply what they are taught during training workshops, an online mentoring workplace support system may be the solution you are looking for continuous (performance) improvement.



Why does the dilemma exist?


  • Because training workshops don’t lead to transfer of what is taught to the workplace,
  • Because improving performance requires enabling changes in the conditions and environment of an organization
  • Because improvement is a continuous process and not a one-off; it requires social and emotional engagement not only brain-work.
  • Because workshops are mass-packaged, and needs analysis and pre-post test don’t capture how people learn as a social network to collaborate and improve practice.

Big Idea - Training does not result in learning

  • Research also shows that learners engage and improve best in a community that fosters relationships.

(Technical language: learners learn best within the context of their jobs, relationships enable exchange of tacit knowledge, which is learnt through close observation of competent models and trial and error (Polanyi 1966) The exchange of tacit knowledge amongst peers may be a crucial part of professional development activity that improves performance.


  • More and more professionals turning to online social networks to share, collaborate, exchange. They are also looking for just-in-time, personalised learning opportunities to address issues and deal with challenges with the support of peers.

Inefficient existing model

  • Fatigue of training culture - corporations are losing excessive amounts of workforce labor time to sending pp for training and finding it does not improve performance.

A recent article (Cross & Husband, 2009) suggests that for productivity in a networked era, effective workplace mentoring creates continuous conversations, stimulates self-monitoring of competencies, and actually reduces redundancies in organizations aiming to become better at learning, by extracting value from informal interactions rather than cumbersome needs assessments and pre-post evaluations.

Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Increasing focus on cost-effectiveness of training. And to align investment in training with investing in IT for improving ROI. Now, there are ways to bring both together and deploy IT for staff development on the job.
  • Another metric to consider is perceived user value, rather than contrasting alternative approaches.

(these are Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) but somehow fit under ROI)

  • Education managers and facilitator will be able to design programmes that are supported by online mentors in areas that will actually make a difference for their staff, their departments, and their institutions.
  • Continuous learning can be encouraged and accomplished.
  • Staff members or administrators who are unable to leave their post (as is often the case for front-line) can still participate, as can teams around the world, in a robust set of ongoing professional development opportunities.
  • Changing regulations, requirements, standards, and best practices can be kept up with.
  • Mentors will be able to meet the demands for customized approaches that meet the specific needs and learning styles of all of their teams.

Evolution / Move to networked society and knowledge management

  • Needs of organizations have evolved – knowledge management is becoming important for organizations who want to thrive by tapping into the wealth of Knowledge held in people’s head that needs to be shared across the organization to generate creative solutions to take an organization forward.
  • Online communities of practice to tap into proven advantages of social and informal learning – 80% of learning is informal with peers who provide support to get to the next level of performance.
  • Research shows it is important to understand the social networks that exist in an organization and tap into these

ONA Online Course

  • Research also shows that the right balance of formal and informal measures can lead to a shared high performance purpose to improve results.

Leading Outside the Lines

Lifelong learning

  • To promote employee's continued employability in an ever-changing marketplace, where there is no guarantee of the same jobs remaining.
  • Organizations can make this a priority and a habit to stimulate a learning culture.

Mentoring for Professional Development

In recent years, the practice of online mentoring for professional development and executive education has increased, whether for nurses (Melrose 2006), teachers (Brady and Schuck, 2005; Thomas, 2005), or librarians (Hines, 2007). In fact, the use of e-mentoring for inducting early career professionals has also expanded to professions such as scientists and engineers (Malchow, 2001), managers, and entrepreneurs (APESMA, 2003). All of these are examples of online mentoring networks with dedicated resources and systematic programming.

  • Research shows that workers who receive online mentoring are more motivated to apply what they learn, as they learn by doing in virtual teams across time and distance, supported by collaboration between professional experts and peers, and newcomers.

Flexible and Just-in-Time Solutions

Organizations do not want to invest in large-scale e-learning packages in an era of continuous change. Online mentoring programmes that can be customsied for short and long term goals and implemented at the time of need will enhance your agility and adaptability, and ensure your staff training aligns with your business goals.

Summary of opportunity

21st century knowledge workers want autonomy, drive, purpose with personalised learning, rather than instruction and drilling, while organizations want more value for money in their investment in staff development and in IT which current approaches are not delivering.

Isn't it time we can bring it all together?

How the 3-Os offer takes work-based mentoring forward

  • By taking the mentoring online and ongoing after onsite training
  • By reducing costs of expensive face to face trainings
  • By building much desired skills such as online mentoring for managers
  • By drawing value from informal social networking
  • Improving return on investment from technology to connect members, employers, and stakeholders
  • Bringing together technology and learning to optimize organizational processes for results

Over time, online mentoring will have many uses in and out of the organization, uses that involve educators, employees, policy makers, and others within the community, where mentoring will continue to add value in building social markets to sustain an organization.

Critical Success Factors

(this is a call-out box)

The 3-Os online mentoring system is a proven approach to improving performance. Research done by the 3-Os has developed an optimal implementation model based on the following critical success factors (CSFs) for e-learning in the workplace:

  • the integration of organizational, technological, and pedagogic perspectives towards sustainable embedding of the new practice
  • a shared design process through collaboration and dialogue to ensure seamless and gradual integration
  • motivation of mentors and mentees to improve and share
  • user comfort with e-learning, social networking and workplace mentoring
  • mix of structured and informal mentoring around tasks and attitudes
  • trust, reciprocity and mutual dependency between mentor pairs to enable collaboration
  • organizational readiness and support for change in approaches to training
  • human resources understanding of value added of technology-enabled staff development for performance improvement
  • continuous evaluation by mentors and mentees of effectiveness to ensure quality management

These findings emerge out of research done through a case-study of online mentoring at the International AIDS Society, synthesised with a systematic literature review of e-learning at the workplace.

Arguments for high-level business decision makers


The white paper needs to change their perceptions so that they think that online mentoring is the superior solution for performance improvement compared to the traditional method of training workshops.

This is something that is valuable for us to have because:

  1. It compliments existing courses/programs - we can transition/evolve into it
  2. It is proven to work (refer to case study)
  3. In the long-run, it costs less and adds more value
  4. Social networking is invading the workplace, so rather than make people stop using it, let's get our workers to use it for stimulating learning conversations with each other and with suppliers and customers

Reference: The State of Learning in the Workplace Today - By Jane Hart


  1. We can reduce the money spent on sending employees for courses and encourage them to try out online courses, with mentor support. Example, start a 30-min 3x a week online chat with a mentor after attending a course.
  2. We can incentivise senior staff to become early adopters of online mentoring and share knowledge with their peers, as part of their performance appraisals.
  3. We can publish articles in company newsletters/blog/sharepoint, and start a workplace campaign to show how online mentoring has led to performance improvement, sharing across departments, collaboration between departments, that led to productivity gains and new synergies being found.
  4. Recognize online mentors for their leadership and support of others so they influence their peers perceptions.


  • The most difficult perception to change is the one people hold that training leads to change/improvement.
  • Another rigid belief is that we learn by going through the motions of schooling, of which professional development is but a continuation.
  • A 3rd belief is that people compete with one another at the workplace, so we need to create the perception that mentoring leads to collaboration, which is more valuable than competition with each other, for the bottom-line.

(Comment.gif: Address these challenges with case studies and testimonials)

Strategic Aims of 3-Os through this white paper

  • Exploit the growing move of professionals to learn online, when they want, wherever they are.
  • Draw attention to the cost-issue - the expensive cost of training (particularly face-to-face) vis-a-vis the low impact - as opposed to continuous learning and mentor support.
  • Explain/Outline our Pricing for installing/adding an online mentor system - price, duration, support, exit strategy...
  • Emphasize scalability and flexibility that gives superior results compared to f2f training.
  • Address that training is the bottleneck, has reached its limit (no point doing training better); shows poor resource allocation, online mentoring is the breakthrough solution to achieve business objectives and higher RoI
  • Say that online mentoring creates conversations, trust, breaks down barriers, engenders participation, and improves coordination of resources and tactics to align performance across the organization, without everyone being in the same place at the same time.
  • Marketing messages will also emphasise that the game has changed, both in operations of training, and strategy. For example
  • "Why should I need to attend a workshop to improve what I do?"
  • "Still sitting though yet another dreary workshop?" (image of a young professional with an i-pod in a workshop, who is actually learning with an online mentor something he is really interested in)