What help can be provided to enterprises to make them successful in the long term? According to the experts of Budapest Business School (BGE), one such tool can be mentoring. Therefore, they spent three years focusing on the issue with the involvement of international partners, under the Erasmus+ programme.
Professional business mentors may save small and medium enterprises
Institution: Budapest University of Economics
Project title: TRUST ME - Training for Unique Skills and Techniques for Mentoring
Coordinator: László Varga
Project values: The project offers new knowledge and develops participants' social skills. The project implemented well serves the chosen priorities (developing basic and transversal skills, the professional development of teachers engaged in vocational training): it develops entrepreneurial spirit and the participants' digital skills, and the teachers can master a high-quality training material. The long-term effect and sustainability is ensured by the fact that the partners have planned the further development of the outcomes in two more projects.
We will summarise the experiences gained during the international partnership launched in 2015 with the help of Dr. Sára Csillag, Dean of the Faculty of Financing and Accountancy at BGE, Dr. Andrea Szirmai Madarasiné, Head of Accounting and Finance Institution and László Varga Project Manager.
There have been a number of various curriculum development and training programmes designed to help small and medium enterprises (or a special group of them) in Hungary. BGE, too, has headed several international projects focusing on businesses within the SME sector, tackling various aspects of generation change and sustainability within family enterprises. „The feedback we got from small enterprises was that we should continue this development work” – said László Varga, talking about the initial motivations of the TRUST ME project.
The EU-level comparative statistics clearly show the member states where large numbers of companies within the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector go bankrupt - and that applies to the East Central European region even more. Since in the majority of the member states the SME sector's contribution to the GDP is quite high, it's worth finding a solution - and all this was also given special importance in national economic policies.
The responses also implied that today neither traditional nor b-learning (a mixture of traditional education and e-learning) training courses are attractive enough for entrepreneurs. Our international partners have realised that a mentoring, coaching approach was necessary to reach entrepreneurs. „Mentoring is more effective, and its added value can be higher than the methods used so far, or combined with them” – explains Andrea Szirmai. They were reaffirmed in this approach by their French partner, who has run its business mentoring activity successfully for years.
The main goal of the project is to develop an internationally recognised (special) training course for future SME mentors, who can rely on their newly gained knowledge, information and social skills to cooperate with SME managers and owners as process consultants.
As the first step of the cooperation, the partners defined the concept of a 'business mentor' and how it differed from the roles of a coach or a consultant. Also, the project partners prepared national studies, and then a comparative analysis about the situation of the SME sector, and described best practices through company case studies. „A business mentor is basically the combination of a coach and an economic professional who understands the processes but asks questions without giving the answers, as the company owners should know where they want to steer the company and, also, they should bear responsibility for their decisions. However, a mentor may as well support them in bearing this responsibility for a long time” – Sára Csillag explained.
The basic goal of the TRUST ME project is to train these mentors. „As part of the project, we prepared a competency map and skill card, identifying the professional (hard) and personal (soft) skills which mentors need, as well as the related applicable development tools and techniques and learning outcomes. We also identified the input requirements of the training and its measuring method, and how to measure the participants' development during the mentor training process. We have accordingly developed e-learning training materials, which, besides the contents of each subject matter, also included videos about mentoring, glossaries and self-check questions. We prepared a manual about the methods of developing personal skills in order to support trainers in the mentor training process. The framework for developing professional skills was provided by an economic simulation software, covering the crucial areas of operation of a company” – said László Varga, describing the main steps of the process.
- Budapest Business School, Hungary - Coordinator
- Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Finland
- Babes-Bolyai University, Romania
- ADINVEST International, France
- Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists, Hungary
- CDM Consulting, Romania
The training programme was continuously improved during the project. „There was a significant need for including as many practical examples in the training material as possible, as well as to allow experience exchange among the participants of the training courses at professional workshops” – László Varga added.„We got much farther this way, with the experiences of each country contributing to the final result", said Andrea Szirmai. The French partner helped us a lot understanding mentoring and identifying its processes, and the training content was developed by the other partners. It was a real win-win knowledge transfer through providing support to each other.”
The partners have laid the main milestones of the project, and then discussed mentors' professional and personal competencies and skills in detail, as well as the contents of the training materials, tested the usability of the simulation software through a common game and revised the quality of the materials prepared for the individual phases.
Curriculum development and training programme
After developing the curriculum, all the four countries held pilot training courses to assess the usability and usefulness of the training content. The project partners didn't conduct their pilot training courses simultaneously, so they could rely on each other's experiences.
And the practical outcome? A ready-to-use curriculum and a registered adult education programme for business mentors, which is organised following the internal logic of the mentoring process from making contact and situation analysis through mentoring to closing the relationship - tailored to market needs as much as possible. As an indirect outcome of the project, an enterprise development centre was established at BGE, called Budapest LAB, where studies and training courses are conducted in close cooperation with enterprises, already with considerable results.
The TRUST ME project was followed by another, currently running strategic partnership called MentorCert (Business MENTOR training and CERTification). It seeks to change various levels of mentoring activity and to improve mentors' competencies in a sector-specific manner. Another important task is to develop the qualification of mentors at various levels, which also means setting up an ISO-compatible mentor qualification scheme with the involvement of accredited quality assurance bodies.
Last modified: 08-08-2019