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Knowledge sharing through flash mentoring

With an abundance of information it can be difficult for managers and L&D leaders to identify the key knowledge for employees to have. Flash mentoring is an effective way for organizations to capture and share critical knowledge of senior employees with new hires or future leaders.

March 8, 2021

How is knowledge usually shared? These days it’s expected that all knowledge is available at the click of a button, but when the number of active websites is up in the billions, this also means there is a lot of information to sift through. When the objective is to find out something specific, or the solution to a problem, the internet may end up providing non-factual opinions or false and outdated information. This can not only be an unproductive use of time, but also lead those seeking knowledge to be less in the know than they were to begin with. 

In terms of career knowledge and finding out how to progress within an organization, a simple internet search isn’t always enough to give hands on information that is specific to each individual’s needs. While there is guidance on how to kickstart the next steps in a career such as how to be a good leader, or tips on how be financially successful, the best kind of knowledge comes directly from those with experience. 

Mentoring is one of the most popular ways to share knowledge between people. It enables those that need to explore their areas for improvement in a formal and informative way all while building relationships and networks with people that could be crucial for career growth. Communication between two parties in a mentorship can take time to develop, but the end goal of gaining a broader skillset and invaluable knowledge is what makes mentoring so successful. 

Time is the key word here though, and while this kind of standard one-to-one mentorship is beneficial for everyone including the organization, it is designed to deliver knowledge in an intensive and lengthy way. So, what if time is of the essence? What if the knowledge that is being sought doesn’t require many months or a year’s worth of meetings and shadowing? Is mentoring still a productive use of time? As with all questions that arise within an organization, there are always mapped out solutions. And in this instance flash mentoring is the answer. 

What is Flash Mentoring?

A phrase coined within the last 15 years, the concept of flash mentoring has been widely received in many countries due to its simplified nature and timeless attitude toward mentoring. Flash mentoring is not supposed to replace long-term mentoring but act as a booster for those who are looking for concise knowledge from a peer or senior. It also helps organizations to use time effectively to get this across. 

Flash mentoring is a much faster way of communicating information between two or more people without the ongoing formalities of a standard mentorship. Usually lasting for an hour or two, and over the course of one meeting, this kind of mentoring requires individuals to really think about what it is they want to know and what person they are most likely to get the most from in terms of their answers. 

With the support of the organisation, this type of mentoring can be highly effective as it can be used at any stage in a person’s career and not just for those who are seeking promotions or working toward senior positions. In terms of career progression, it may be that a short burst of mentoring is enough to gain the insight needed to fill in some gaps in knowledge that would make the next step more attainable. 

Other purposes of flash mentoring are to serve as a buffer between two professionals who feel that the other individual may have valuable insights, they can take away to do their job more effectively. Flash mentoring is flexible, and its objectives can change quite easily to suit the requirements of each party, so its popularity on a professional front is really on the rise.

How does Flash Mentoring Work?

The focus of flash mentoring is more on the knowledge sharing aspect and less about the relationship itself, and in fact this doesn’t have much bearing at all. The aim is to find out some valuable information in a short space of time. Building a rapport isn’t exactly a priority and somebody seeking out this kind of knowledge would find it beneficial to arrange a mentoring meeting with somebody in the field they are interested in or with expertise in a specialised area that will help in their career. The mentor’s personal interests and values may not be of importance to the information being sought, so shouldn’t come into play when choosing who to approach. 

The process of finding someone to help with this kind of speed-mentoring doesn’t need to be formal either. Depending on what information or guidance is being sought, individuals can simply approach the person they have in mind through a simple phone call or email, or as arranged through a direct line manager if contact isn’t so easy. 

While it is a good thing to document as part of career growth, flash mentoring can be for something as simple as finding out how to use a work-based system or Microsoft Office program or how to deal with a difficult conversation at work. Interview preparation is also a good use of flash mentoring as is using the meeting as a chance to question a senior on how they reached success. When the whole process is supposed to use time effectively, it would be quite ineffective and time-consuming to go through various channels of human resources if not necessary. 

On the other hand, it is a good thing if organizations want to leverage flash mentoring to progress employees in a productive manner and use mentoring software to track meetings and pairings. There is always room for improvement in any implemented coaching within the workplace. Documenting these journeys will be beneficial over the long-term to see what works and how the concept of flash mentoring can grow further. 

The meeting itself doesn’t need to be as formal as a traditional mentoring meeting and can take place over coffee or a lunch break, the telephone, or video conferencing platforms. The formality of the setting is best decided between both parties depending on the discussion taking place. This makes flash mentoring accessible to so many people and less intimidating than the initial meetings of traditional mentoring can be. 

The Benefits of Flash Mentoring

In terms of scheduling, flash mentoring allows such flexibility where traditional mentoring can fall behind. Individuals can arrange a one-off meeting at their own convenience without the need for follow up or subsequent meetings that may clash with other commitments.

With video platforms being widely used over the last 12 months, the pressure of travelling to and from meetings is also relieved by being able to take them from the comfort of home. This also works well for traditional mentoring methods but especially benefits flash mentoring due to its convenience. There can otherwise be a high expectation of commitment travelling to and from a new location for just one meeting – costs and time spent of travel may be a commitment that does not suit everyone especially where there is no long-term advantage of doing so. Being able to connect from anywhere in the world without it taking up too much valuable time is a big selling point for this type of mentoring.

Flash mentoring isn’t just for senior or mid-level employees, it can suit anyone and at different career points depending on the need for it. Organizations can arrange flash mentoring between individuals or groups to upskill or reskill on certain areas, or it can be instigated individually where somebody sees value in hearing another person’s perspective. This opens the possibilities up to anyone within an organization and isn’t just for one particular purpose. 

While part of a standard mentor/mentee structure is about building the relationship and how this can be such a positive experience and great way to expand networks, it doesn’t always work out so successfully. Many times, matches between mentors and mentees don’t fulfill this expectation. Sometimes the conflict or lack of connection can cause tension and awkwardness in having to part ways. Flash mentoring doesn’t require time to build on a relationship and as a one-time meeting, the expectation is that the relationship doesn’t need to continue if neither party requires it to. Having a bad match or a mentoring relationship that simply didn’t work out doesn’t need to be the cause of anxiety in this instance. 

Flash mentoring can be another way to boost morale and job satisfaction within an organization. Even though it is not long-term, it shows that the consideration for employee’s needs is being taken seriously. When it is offered or supported and can be a way to find out more about teams and where there may be gaps in knowledge. Mentoring of any kind also highlights talent and provides a platform for individuals to start realizing their career goals. 

Competition for promotions can be fierce and standard application forms or cover letters are sometimes not enough to make an individual stand out to their prospective leaders. Flash mentoring can help people gain an edge over their competition in a fair and professional way. By finding someone who is happy to discuss the role and how they found their own success in it, or asking for advice on promotional challenges, this method can be the thing that prevents someone from being overlooked. Flash mentoring looks favourable to recruiters who need proactive people who can find ways to overcome challenges in their career. 

Many people entering a traditional mentoring relationship don’t always know what to expect or much about the person they have been matched with. Even through mentor matching software, the information on paper may not give a clear indication of the mentor’s style of communication. Flash mentoring can be used to ease individuals into traditional mentoring to give an idea of how the process works and the kind of advice they can obtain from someone in a more senior position. If a quick meeting works out and there is more to be gained or discussed, it can be arranged to turn it into long-term mentoring if schedules allow for it, or the experience can be the push someone needs to find a mentor through organized channels. 

It can also be used alongside traditional mentoring to find out specific information as recommended by the long-term mentor if it isn’t in their particular skillset. There is no reason the two types of mentoring can’t work in conjunction with each other, and in fact may provide broader knowledge on a subject as well as two different perspectives. 

Flash mentoring is also beneficial to those looking to expand their network. Even though meetings and discussions tend to be concise, it opens a lot of doors in terms of meeting and speaking with someone who they might not have naturally crossed paths with before. Individuals seeking career progression will find benefit in being on the radar of key senior employees; a positive flash mentoring experience can leave a lasting impression and lead to referrals for future training or position openings. 

In any organization, collaboration is vital for things to run smoothly. Flash mentoring works for collaboration to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Many people within a team will be at different levels of their role as learning happens at various paces and some people may have had longer experience. To catch up specific members of a team with a particular skillset this type of mentoring is fast and efficient at bringing people up to speed and finding out more about where their gaps in knowledge stem from. If it is communication related, a flash mentor meeting can highlight the need for further training to help develop someone to their potential.

Engagement from all employees and individuals is the aim of employers to promote success and maintain high retention levels. Incorporating opportunities such as flash mentoring encourages human connections from knowledge sharing in a world where information is so conveniently found at the click of a button. 

Where it can be easy to rely on the internet or guidebooks, it is not the same as reaching out to someone and learning from their experiences. This includes successes and failures and truthful accounts of someone’s career journey. 

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