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How to use gamification to accelerate the bond between mentors and mentees: Part 1

Sandra Schlebusch

Many organisations implement formal mentoring programmes to address challenges such as retaining and engaging employees, accelerating learning and building succession pools. Mentoring is, therefore, an important part of what many organisations' learning and development offerings. However, even though we might all be aware of the possible advantages that a mentoring programme offers to an organisation and individuals, we often struggle to establish and maintain an effective formal mentoring programme. So how can we overcome this problem?

An important element of the mentoring programme is the relationship between the mentor and mentee. Most mentor-mentee relationships require a clear sense of purpose and a defined goal that the mentee wants to achieve. The clearer that goal is, the more focused the later discussions will be and the easier it is to relate day-to-day issues to the larger goal.

In addition, communication preferences, problem-solving methods, trust and conflict resolution, and time management are all aspects that need to be clarified within any mentor-mentee relationship and need to be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage.

How do you effectively start a mentoring relationship?

Mentors and their mentees could read about the aspects that need to be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage. However, there is no guarantee that the reading will take place and that the issues will be sufficiently addressed in the relationship. The issues that should be addressed during this stage are too important to leave to chance.

What is the contracting and bonding stage?
Judy McKimm, Carol Jollie and Mark Hatter (2003)  state that the contracting and bonding stage is the first stage in a mentor-mentee relationship which is about creating an alliance and consists of preparing for the relationship, forming a bond and agreeing a contract to enhance preparation and constitute the agenda for the first meeting”.

Another alternative is for mentors and mentees to attend lectures about the aspects that should be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage. Afterward they would implement the knowledge in their relationship. However, merely listening to a lecture doesn’t automatically mean learning has taken place and that these important aspects will be sufficiently addressed in their relationship.

Experiential techniques can be used in a mentor-mentee relationship

We have, in the past, used experiential learning techniques to ensure that a bond is formed between the mentor and mentee early in the relationship.

  • We first had the mentor and mentee attend a one-day workshop during which some theory was shared. This was immediately followed by the mentor and mentee applying the theory in their relationship.
  • About two weeks after this workshop, the mentor and mentee then attended a day-and-a-half outward-bound experiential learning experience. During this outdoor experience, they had to solve problems and face challenges as a team. The learnings from these experiences were then consolidated and positioned into the mentor-mentee relationship. 
  • The combination of the one-day, in-door workshop, together with the one-and-a-half day outdoor experiential experience, was very effective in establishing the contract and bond between the mentor and mentee.

However, this two-and-a half day experience was expensive. Apart from the direct cost involved in accommodating the outdoor experience, having mentors that are in senior positions in the organisation away from the office at the same time created problems! An alternative had to be found.

Next week, in How to use gamification to accelerate the bond between mentors and mentees: Part 2, I’ll chat about the solution that we came up with, which uses gamification.

Editor’s note: In the meantime, to whet your appetite about gamification I recommend that you read:

Sandra Schlebusch is the managing director of LEMASA and the owner of LeCouSa Consulting, which owns The Consultants brand. She obtained a BCom (honours) degree in industrial psychology at the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (now the North West University). Sandra continued her studies in business, management and leadership, and obtained an MBA during May 2004 at the University of the North West, Potchefstroom campus. Her current studies include compiling her doctoral proposal on a comparison of the learning effectiveness of diagnostic assessment centres with coaching development centres. Sandra is a registered psychometrist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. She is a practising life, business and executive coach, and is also a member of Toastmasters International. Sandra has extensive work experience in the chemical, transport, broadcasting and the telecommunication industries covering the whole spectrum of human and organisational development, including mentoring and coaching. Sandra received an award for Recognition for Continuous Contribution to the field of Assessment Centres in South Africa for the 2007 from the Assessment Centre Study Group (ACSG). She is co-editor of the book Assessment Centres: Unlocking Potential for Growth (2008). She was also awarded honorary membership of the ACSG in 2012.