Rashim Mogha on why mentoring must adapt to the digital workplace
The benefits of mentoring are well documented – it’s an approach to individual and organisational improvement dating back several thousand years. As anyone who has been on either side of a mentoring experience will know, it can be truly a transformational personal, and professional experience.
In the business context, organisations of all sizes believe in the value of mentoring. According to data collated by the organisers of National Mentoring Day, for example, nearly three quarters of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more – twice the rate of their non-mentored counterparts. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s widely quoted that over 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programmes.
In common with many established workplace processes, mentoring has been put under the microscope by the pandemic. Not only has it prevented people from meeting in person, for many it has permanently changed the way they look at their development, goals, and career trajectory.
Organisations should be prepared to think creatively about matching people who might previously have seemed too remote from one another
For organisations looking to build mentoring programmes in an era of digital and remote working, there are a range of considerations to help ensure the process offers the guidance people need, delivered in a way that works for them. Here are some critical steps in designing a mentoring programme.
Mentoring can take many forms, and from a skills or career development perspective, relationships can focus on narrow or broad challenges and be designed to operate over the short- or long-term.
That’s why it’s vital to establish some terms of reference from the outset so participants understand the scope and potential limitations of the process. Given the changing nature of work, what does the mentee need from the process? What’s more, how have the changes seen over the past 18 months changed the role mentoring will play for each stakeholder?
Listen to and support mentors and mentees
From the outset, understanding and acting on the preferences of both mentors and mentees is crucial to building trust. Both parties should be given the opportunity to share their preferences around the ‘who, what, where and when’ of the relationship. This is particularly important if the participants are being brought together online for the first time and there is no previous experience that has already helped to establish trust. It’s also just as important to provide a mechanism for feedback to ensure that each person can share positive experiences and areas for improvement.
Embrace remote mentoring opportunities
Despite the challenges that remote working can bring and the major adjustment it has required across many working cultures, it also offers some new opportunities for mentoring.
In particular, the widespread use of video brought down boundaries between people, and when considering mentoring programmes, there is now a broader, international pool of those looking for guidance and those in a position to give it. Organisations should be prepared to think creatively about matching people who might previously have seemed too remote from one another.
Integrate mentoring with wider L&D processes and resources
In the ideal setting, mentoring programmes should be integrated with wider learning and development resources. For example, if a mentoring session identifies a development need or opportunity, the supporting processes and technologies should pick this up and facilitate further progress.
Access to the right training content can add huge value to the mentoring process. Organisations that bridge the gap between these vital capabilities will be ideally placed to ensure their investment in mentoring works for the individuals concerned – and by definition – for the benefit of the organisation as a whole.
Rashim Mogha is general manager of leadership and business at Skillsoft and is an expert speaker on the TJ Podcast this month.