In the skilled trades an apprenticeship model (mentor/protégé) is used to educate and employ people. It uses real-life experience to promote a deep understanding of the expectations and environment of work by transferring explicit and tacit knowledge. By coupling a three-tiered apprenticeship model with non-linear self-directed career paths, mentoring, emotional intelligence, and systems thinking an organization can create an environment that will increase the probability of people finding meaning in their work and therefore create a healthy human-centric place to work. The underlying concept is to use self-similarity in a simple recursive design to meet the complex demands, so the protégé becomes the mentor and so on. Two people, one relationship, infinite paths.
Three tiers of the model:
Shadowing: A “try before you buy” introduction to a new role. It could simply be sitting with a mentor a few times in the role that holds some interest for the potential protégé for a few hours at each session while the mentor does their work while the other person asks questions about the role. There is no commitment at this stage.
Apprenticing: If the protégé likes the new role a formal process of expectations and education begins between the mentor and protégé. The protégé still keeps their current role and meets with the mentor twice a month for apprenticing. This stage requires a minimum six month commitment. The tangible work is a medium used to transfer emotional intelligence and systems thinking concepts and practices while the mentor helps the protégé find meaning in the potential role.
Journeying: The mentor and protégé agree together when the protégé is ready to complete projects on their own with mentor review prior to submission. At this stage the mentor gains a functional assistant and the protégé gains true work experience in that role.
Please note that a mentor is not necessarily above a protégé on the org. chart. An executive is allowed and encouraged to be a protégé of a line employee.
An apprenticeship model produces tangible work products while allowing a person to experiment with a new career path that may be up, sideways, or even downward. It also transfers tacit knowledge throughout an organization by the use of social networking guided by emotional intelligence. This encourages tough debate and honest dialogue in a one-on-one format which increases trust, career satisfaction, self-awareness, customer awareness, affective commitment, talent capacity, leadership capacity, job performance, internal job promotion rate, and decreases turnover. It also short-circuits the stalemate of advancement, the “I can’t get the job because I don’t have any experience, yet can’t get the experience because I can’t get the job” syndrome. Beyond an individual’s career advancement this model can be used as a knowledge management technique and leadership platform to transfer all kinds of development and cultural visions from the bottom-up and from the top-down.
After a few one-on-ones with key executives the cultural acceptance level can be assessed. If it is accepted, a formalized process that uses strong evidence-based and experimentation methods to design the support system increases the chance of a successful implementation. By also using a system with feedback mechanisms ensures an ever changing process that adapts to current needs and desires of the participants. It is suggested that a grassroots movement be used to implement the process which verifies the culture wants it and will not be forced onto the employees. A six month pilot program could be used to iron out cultural kinks. Here is a sampling of some deliverables.
- Organizational assessment
- Design assessment
- Resource assessment
- Recruit 20-30 participants.
- Define participant qualifications.
- Define implementation strategy.
- Recruit participants.
- Train participants.
- Measure intangible value such as emotional intelligence and systems thinking.
- Measure leadership capacity in mentors and protégés.
- Measure economic impact of program.
- Measure participant designed criteria: Focus inventory, one-on-one interviews.
Major references used in research:
Peter Senge, Daniel Goleman, Chris Argyris, Linda Holbeche, Alfie Kohn, Dorthy Leonard, and Walter Swap.
(See references in "Corporate Apprenticeship Research" PDF in Helpful Materials section for all references.)