Treat Individuals Individually

Treating individuals individually is the basis of the most effective mentoring programs and practice. It’s so easy to say it, but NOT so easy to do it, and yet, to succeed at the maximum level – to increase performance and results in your organization – treating individuals individually is a MUST!  This page has just what you need to get started implementing this critical concept.

Stated another ways, we could say, “Do not treat all persons the same.”

Although this sounds unfair, the fact is that it is eminently MORE fair to treat people individually, as they are. For example, at a new employee orientation session, everyone needs to learn certain critical and unique information about their new employers and organization, the local site, procedures, etc. However, people who are fresh out of college, age 21, and who may never have worked full-time in a professional role do not have the same experience and judgment as other “new” employees who have raised families, who are changing from another career or just a different company, but are assuming a job like the one they have just left. The same principles apply to existing staff who are growing toward better practice, new responsibilities, even new assignments.

Life and work all teach us many things that can be transfered across contexts and jobs. That prior experience should be used as a strength, as a resource for the work and the teams to which developing employees belong. That prior experience determines how effective an employee can be in a new setting or position and how quickly, how much they can help themselves by asking questions, or whether they have enough experience to even know what they don’t know.

So, how do we deal with these differences? The title of this page provides the answer.

A literal reading of that title is exactly what mentoring is all about. One-to-one support for professional growth is the very best form of support exactly because it is customized to address the specific strengths and needs of ONE learner. However, there are a couple of variations from this one approach that are just as effective because they also “Treat Individuals Individually”.

A mentor may be working with more than one protégé at a time and still be addressing each person’s individual learning needs. This can happen IF the different protégés all need to learn the same thing at the same time. If this is true, assembling all such protégés together for a small group “class” or learning activity led by the mentor, still does address each person’s individual needs and readiness. In other words, in this specific case, mentors can economize on their use of time because the small group activity is individualized to the proteges’ needs, even if not done with just one individual.

The next situation is one which relates to group activities that are a part of a mentoring program (such as a mentor training), or to any development activity such as a protégé training. For our example, let’s use a trainer who may be leading a class of 23 employees and also be trying to meet their individual learning needs. The larger the group is, the more challenging are these dual goals. When all members of the group have the same need the trainer can use one instructional strategy and think it meets everyone’s needs, but it may or may not. Everyone in the group may need to learn the same content, but, there is more to effective training than just delivering content.

Everyone in the group has different learning styles, such as being more verbally or more visually oriented. Their needs as learners will dictate that the trainer provide the same content with some choices to allow each learner’s preference to help them individually access and master that content.

When participants are at different levels of prior knowledge and skill the trainer needs to design the instructional activities to allow different people to step into the learning sequence he has planned at different times. For example, some may have basic information and just need help preparing a plan to implement that knowledge into use.

Others may not have all the basic knowledge they need yet, and need an extra step in the process to get them to the point where they are ready to join the class and plan implementation of that knowledge.

ASSESSING AND ADDRESSING THESE DIVERSE LEARNERS’ NEEDS IS CRITICAL and learning just HOW to do that is supported on the web pages that provide information about the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM).