Assessing protege needs seems so simple and straight forward, if only we just had a survey. Right? The fact is that proteges’ are very different from each other, depending on the focus of the program. Those differences make assessment a more complex process. Never-the-less, if you read those sections below that focus on your proteges you will have the background to make good decisions when you get to the LAST ITEM IN THE INDEX. That is where we will give you specific suggestions for HOW to conduct an effective needs assessment.
- 1. The Key Questions for This Topic
- 2. The Unique Needs of Youth / Students
- 3. The Needs of New Employees
- 4. The Needs of Experienced Employees
- What external research is there on protégé needs and what does it tells us?
- What local research do we have or need to do on our own protégés’ needs, and what does it tells us?
- What is an effective yet feasible needs assessment process?
- How do we use needs assessment data and research for effective program planning?
- What needs are best addressed:
- With training?
- With mentoring?
- With other program strategies?
- What methods do mentors need to help them assess and address the specific needs of their specific protégé?
When we mentor adults, we can make certain assumptions. Among these is the assumption that they realize the risks in the environment around them and in relating to other people. In fact, we know this assumption to be true for the very reason that adult proteges have to feel they are in a safe, trusting, relationship with mentorts BEFORE they will take the risks of admitting mistakes, sharing their real problems, and trying new things in front of another adult. They KNOW the potential risks of vulnerability, and they KNOW they have to be careful and protect themselves.
Kids do not. They typically are innocent – which means life has not yet “trashed” them and hurt them. Of course, when kids grow up in dysfunctional families, peer relationships, and neighborhoods or schools. they lose that innocence, and they become hardened. In that case mentoring them is as challenging or more so that mentoring an adult.
Usually, youth have been protected in their families, in schools, in churhes, in kids clubs, and by the parents of their friends. Even adults who do not know a child will sometimes step in to protect a child when they sense there is a risk involved.
Youth and student mentoring programs assume a responsibility to always place the health and welfare of children ahead of every other factor. It’s a dangerous world and we cannot take the risk on ourselves of assuming that every mentor who volunteers is a good person. This has been addressed in more detail elsewhere on this web site, so go there if you want more details.
For your understanding of what we mean in this web site, “novice” employees need to be distinguished from “new” and “beginning” employees. On this web site, we describe “novice” and “beginning” as the same thing – generally younger and less experienced persons.
When we say “new“, we mean someone with experience in life (older) and in another career(s), BUT that they are NEW to a new place of work. The next section talks more about these experienced person’s needs. Of course, they are ALL NEW to that setting or place, but people with prior experience need to be treated differently than those who are just beginning. Hence the definitions we use. For help in thinking about this, also see, “Treat Individuals Individually“.
You might wonder why we are talking here about the needs of experienced persons, after all THEY are the mentors, right? Right, But in many programs mentoring is offered or even required of veteran staff because they are still receiving training to “keep them current’ and the organization providing that training, also expects employees to implement what they have learned from training into their daily practices. THAT cannot be very successful without mentoring.
Also, the organization that is continually improving, staying competitive, staying ready and able to handle the challenges they face, these organizations KNOW they must be a learning organization in which every person is BEING mentored and also DOING mentoring, Get and give is the expectation in any learning organization (and IMA is no exception).
When people have prior experience in life (older) and in another career(s), BUT that they are NEW to a new place of work, they need to be treated differently than persons who have less or no experience. They bring with them the ability to help themselves, ask more questions, and an openness to learning as fast as possible, because they have previously learned that these qualities are needed as we enter new situations, and they are valued by people who are already in those places.
Generally, a mentor’s role with an experienced but new protege involves two things:
- Orientation to the new setting, people, expectations, etc.
- Helping the protege use what they already know and fit it to this new situation. That involves a process of helping the protege to:
- Reflect on past experience and learning;
- Think about when and where that past experience can be appropriately applied in the new setting;
- Adapt the prior frameworks and routines to fit well in the new situation;
- Reflect on the challenges in the new setting to consider how it is similar and different from what the protege knew before, and therefore, what fits well in the new setting and what does not.