Using Learning Paths to provide corporate mentors and mentees with more structure to achieve proficiency

By Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt

I have always been an advocate of formal mentoring programmes in a corporate environment but have recently started to think that we should provide mentors and mentees with even more support in the structuring of the activities and conversations in the mentoring process.

I have been reminded of this again in a blog by Jean Rhodes published on 18 April 2019 in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring about how mentors of youth are often given little guidance in what to talk about or do with their mentees and that it is important to provide more assistance in this regard.

Learning Paths may be a good solution to help mentors and mentees to know what to do during the programme. Steve Rosenbaum in his book “Up to Speed: Secrets of reducing time to proficiency” explains that a Learning Path is the sequence of learning activities from the start of the training until the learner becomes proficient. Steve broadly defines a learning activity as anything the learner goes through that leads to proficiency. According to Steve, proficiency is the end result of a Learning Path and therefore informs the activities in the Learning Path.

Designing a Learning Path to guide the mentee’s learning process and to provide structure for the relationship will eliminate the grey areas that we often find where the mentor and mentee do not know exactly what to do to achieve the agreed mentoring objectives. A Learning Path based on Learning Path International’s methodology will include activity descriptions, aimed at helping the mentee to achieve the required level of performance (proficiency). The activity descriptions provide an overview or purpose of the activity and step-by-step instructions. It therefore describes in detail what is expected of the mentor and mentee at that specific point in time on the Learning Path. 

The activity descriptions help to clarify the role of the mentor and mentee as both parties have to implement the activities as described in the Learning Path. The review process for the mentor also becomes easier. As described by Steve in his book “Up to Speed”, the mentor could ask the following questions at the review meeting:

  • What learning activities did you complete this week?
  • What do you have left over that needs to be scheduled next week?
  • What went well?
  • What was difficult or challenging?

The role of the mentor is then also to check progress against the achievement of proficiency, using the proficiency definitions that form the basis of a Learning Path (using Learning Path International’s methodology). Steve recommends that if the mentee is not proficient at the required point in the programme, that the mentor needs to redo some of the activities or determine how to give more time for practice and feedback.

Using Learning Paths to enhance the mentoring process seems worthwhile to explore. The Talent Hub partners with Learning paths international and will assist you in refining your mentorship programme by including Learning Paths. For more information, please contact