Business Mentoring Matters

People-First Learning

Posted on Wed, Jun, 29, 2011

I was reading a trade journal the other day and came across a concept I had not encountered as of yet:  People-First Learning.  People-First Learning means a process whereby people look to and connect with other people first when they have learning needs instead of looking for content.  In essence, it means that instead of going to a manual or video for assistance one contacts an expert and has a conversation that allows for learning to take place.

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People-First Learning is a nice term for what has often been described as mentoring and coaching.  It encapsulates what many of us know intuitively know-that engaging with an expert allows for greater learning in a shorter period of time because the interaction allows for give and take and course correction as part of the process of learning as opposed to reading a resource and not having an ability to have questions answered or to get feedback on how well one has acquired the needed skill.

The value of this terminology (People-First Learning) is that it forces one to think about how one can improve the ability to allow for this type of learning to take place in the workplace?  The two types of People-First Learning I'm most familiar with are mentoring and coaching.  There may be others, i.e. buddy systems, etc. but let's focus on mentoring and coaching.

Too often companies will create separate mentoring and coaching programs with little linkage between both.  This is often due to the fact that mentoring may often be only for a small, special group like hi pos or new leaders whereas coaching may be more for the larger population.  The lack of connection is often further eroded by having coaching limited to one's direct manager or an outside consultant as opposed to expanding coaching to include all employees who have expertise to offer.

What companies are seeking to do is to have the entire organization work together to accomplish the purpose for why the company exists.  Not linking coaching and mentoring prevents a company from realizing that purpose.  It may allow for some People-First Learning but it doesn't do it as well as it should in order to reap the maximum benefit from its investment in its most important asset:  employees.  Think of this is a piece of music where every note needs to link together otherwise the music will be discordant and won't make much sense.  

So if you are providing both mentoring and coaching to your employees, think about how better to link these two important strategies. One way would be to link employee performance discussions into the mentoring relationship either by the discussions influencing the match or influencing some of the focus areas that the mentoring pair will engage in.

However, the best way to link is to tap into your entire employee population and have them share their expertise with others.  For this you'll need an online system (see below) but the investment in such a system will greatly improve the People-First Learning and create a more effective and proficient workforce.  

So as you look at your company's learning strategies, are you putting the pieces together as well as you should?

If interested in learning about our online systems that link mentoring and coaching, please go to: and to view a short video overview of each product.

Image Credit: © Maxim Blinkov |

Tags: Mentoring FAQs, Talent Development and Retention