Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The barriers to eMentoring

I have held a few meetings, and spoken to a number of people about the eMentoring project I am managing. And there are common themes about what is stopping people from engaging with eMentoring, and preventing them from volunteering to take part as either mentors and mentees.

None of the themes will come as any great surprise to people working in education or eLearning. So the question is: if we know so well what stops people from engaging with workplace learning and professional development, how can we overcome those obstacles?

Time constraints
It's the old adage - "I just don't have time!"

I have been known to rant about this, accusing people of using it as an excuse. And I still maintain that we need to look at how we manage our time at work. Nevertheless, with chronic staff shortages, and endless rounds of funding proposals to write, accreditation and audit visits to prepare for, it is hardly surprising that aged care staff don't have a lot of energy for anything "extra".

Financial constraints
The managers I have spoken to about this project are very keen to make sure their staff are supported at work, and they recognize the value of mentoring. However, they maintain they do not have the budget to pay for backfill which will release staff.

The caregivers I have spoken to do not want to do anything related to work in their own time. They are shattered when they get home, and want to switch off completely from work.
Other calls on their time such as family obligations prevent people from committing to the project. This is a serious barrier to people with young children, because it prevents them from leaving town to attend the mentoring workshops, even though travel and accommodation will be paid by project funding.

Understanding mentoring
The other really important barrier to mentoring is that some people do not understand what it is. Some people I have spoken to see it only as a way of giving advice, and have got very caught up with discussions about what will happen if mentees do not take the advice of the mentor. Or do not do things the way the mentor thinks they should.

Explaining mentoring
This has emphasized to me the importance of explaining what mentoring is, and to tell stories to illustrate. To me, mentoring isn't about telling a nurse what medication she should use to treat a leg ulcer, but rather to point her in the direction of the evidence, and support her while she works out the implication of that evidence to her practice.

Computer skills
There is no doubt that lack of computer skills and access to computers is a barrier. But as yet, I have been surprised just how enthausiastic people are about learning new online communication skills. What remains to be seen is how easily staff can overcome organisational firewalls and Internet policies.

What would stand in the way of you volunteering to get involved with a learning project at work?

Image: 'helping hand' popofatticus


Nikki said...


I think the first objection (I don't have the time) really shouldn't wash with an ementoring project - it's one of the easiest things to do - log on, type, you're done. How much commitment are you asking for from the mentors?

I work for a charity running ementoring projects, and we ask the mentors for about an hour a week (enough to write two or three posts!)

Here's some more about our projects if you're interested... http://www.thebrightsidetrust.org/projects.php

Sarah Stewart said...

To be honest, I think it's an excuse that we, as health professionals, are very quick to make. Somehow, we see our jobs as a perfect rreason why we shouldn't engage with these sorts of activities. The challenge is to turn that thinking around. Thanks a lot.