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SEA Affiliate Week: Using Mentoring and Training Programs to Develop Knowledge and Skills by Jennifer Johnson and Melanie Meyer

**This post is part of ‘Best of aea365’ – an occasional look back to posts we think are worth another look. This article was originally posted in a previous year when subscribership was much lower.**

We are Jennifer Johnson and Melanie Meyer, and we are evaluators at the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.  Jennifer has served as Past President and currently serves as Secretary for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA), and Melanie holds a Master’s degree in Adult and Continuing Education and is a member of SEA.

The purpose of continued professional development is to help individuals maintain competence in their profession.  It is critical to organizational success and ensures individuals possess current knowledge and skills to effectively do their jobs and contribute to organizational goals.

Cool Tricks: Two ways organizations can address continued professional development are through mentoring and training.  Mentoring consists of a one-on-one relationship in which an individual serves as a mentor or coach to an individual less experienced or new to the organization.  A training program occurs in a group setting in which one or several individuals adopt a trainer/teacher role.

Hot Tips: Developing mentoring and training programs requires significant organizational commitment.  Below are a few tips organizations should consider:

Mentoring Programs

  • Build trust. Ensure the mentor relationship is only about support and growth, not supervision or management.  Mentors should not provide performance evaluations.
  • Specifythementoring role.Determine what areas mentors should address, e.g., specific skills and knowledge, or organizational processes and culture.
  • Clarify the frequency and method of contact.  Determine the length and format of interactions (e.g., face-to-face or phone; structured meetings or less formal interactions) and whether mentors should be available between sessions.
  • Determine the duration of relationship.Determine whether the mentoring relationship should be a time limited or ongoing. Periodically assess the relationship to ensure both individuals are happy with the process.

Training Programs

  • Assess internal expertise.  Identify individuals in your organization to provide training; it is the most effective way to develop and sustain a training program and is inexpensive, flexible, and allows the trainer to be available for post-training consultation.
  • Varythescope and format.  Provide focused training for essential skills and broader training for areas that require a general knowledge base.  Use a range of formats including classroom-style presentation, interactive and hands-on sessions, and one-on-one tutorials. Develop self-guided materials.
  • Tailor programs to skill levelsSpecialize training for beginner, moderate, and advanced skill levels.
  • Encourage participation by management.  Demonstrate to the organization that training is important by encouraging managers to attend and look for opportunities for individuals to apply what they learn.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating SEA Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the Southeast Evaluation Association. All of the blog contributions this week come from our SEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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