Posts in Mentoring
How can self-directed learning apply to roles with limited upward mobility?

There were actually 2 related questions posted by webinar participants: 

  • How can self-directed learning apply to roles with limited upward mobility? 
  • How can you help employees understand that career growth does not always equal advancement/promotion?

With people staying in their jobs longer, there may be fewer upward career options at your organization.  Or perhaps it is simply the nature of the job and/or the company that there are fewer career moves available. 

You can still use competency models to enable people to own their development by helping them become the organization’s experts in their current role.  This gets measured as they assess themselves against the competency model.  Then, they can be task-based mentors for others, or be selected to work on the most challenging projects.

Maybe they can assess their skills and prepare for lateral moves, which is quite common, and keeps people challenged. 

Ultimately, so long as you can help people show movement in their skills, and help them grow, you have the best chance at keeping them. 

How can you help employees understand that career growth does not always equal advancement/promotion? 

Ultimately, you can acknowledge the new social contract, “you may not always want to stay here, but I’m trying to help you develop for the future… whether that is here at our company or elsewhere.”  You want to get employees engaged?  THAT gets them engaged.


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Why Competency Models Will Make You Question Your Perception Of Mentoring

Supporting mentoring programs is hard.  One of the biggest problems faced by those trying to run them is that by the time you find people who are good in a lot of things who are willing to be mentors, and you train them, they often move into new roles.  Or, there are so few of them, there simply aren’t enough mentoring hours to go around.

Enter competency models.  If you enable people to assess themselves against competency models, you can uncover pockets of skill-based strengths across the organization.  How does that help?  Well, imagine if instead of having 10 people who can serve as mentors, you identify that almost every person has at least one skill in which they excel.  If you have the ability to identify these people, and pair them temporarily with others who have skill gaps in those same areas, then you can literally apply mentors at scale across the organization. 

Consider the impact of applying mentors in this manner across the organization.

  • If I’m a high performer with few skill gaps, I have the opportunity to improve my level of proficiency by mentoring others, so I can continue to grow.  And I can try to create new tools, templates and processes to help others consistently apply my techniques. 
  • If I’m an average performer with only a few expert skills, someone who would not be tapped for a traditional mentoring program, I have the opportunity to experience the impact of mentoring others.  And this may increase my drive for higher levels of proficiency in other areas, while at the same time, building my internal network.
  • If I have a skill gap in some area which cannot be well served by a formal learning opportunity, or at least not quickly, I can work with a task-based mentor on a project intimately related to my role, so I can quickly learn, apply, and practice in a safe and relevant environment.
  • The entire organization builds its bench strength as a team, working together to pull each other up with little to no cost.  All the while, the process is creating stronger internal personal connections within and across departments and regions.
  • As each person gets tapped for “something” they are really good at, they become increasingly engaged as they see their value and purpose grow within the organization.  In fact, being assigned as a task-based mentor becomes both recognition and a reward.

Successfully implementing task-based mentoring

  • To implement task-based mentors, you need to have a competency model for those roles, and each person must self-assess against it.  
  • The competency assessment tool should make it easy for managers to identify their direct report’s individual skill gaps and locate potential task-based mentors (across the organization) so they can be temporarily paired.  
  • Both the mentor and the mentee should understand the scope of the relationship – to help increase one particular skill.  
  • Time should be set aside for the two to work together on shadowing and practicing the specific behaviors that demonstrate the required proficiency for that skill, which comes directly from the competency model.
  • The mentee should reassess on that skill following the opportunity to practice, in order to demonstrate a change in skill… which becomes a positive reflection on both the mentor and mentee.
  • The mentee’s manager should assess them, to confirm the target proficiency was indeed achieved.

If you want to leverage the expertise you know exists within your organization, and engage each person to apply their strengths, take a look at how competency models can help.

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