The day the World Health Organization announced a global pandemic, marked a new era for professional life as we knew it. This abrupt and sudden change was jarring for everyone involved. As organizations look to keep employees engaged and connected, many are turning to virtual mentorship for help.
How can companies, businesses and organizations pivot to survive in the post-pandemic era? Especially for workplaces that depend on collaboration and team building, the sudden switch to remote work can feel like the end of days. As we move into a normalized hybrid workplace, the value of communication is more important than ever.
At Chronus, we’re dedicated to exploring ways to develop purposeful relationships with the help of technology. This is a time for organizations to explore the value of much-needed connections during this time of isolation. In today’s post, explore the benefits of virtual mentoring programs and how it can help your organization stay connected and engaged.
What is Virtual Mentorship?
Mentoring in a professional setting can be a formal or informal partnership where team members receive guidance and advice from an experienced professional in the organization, with a focus on open communication, growth, and development. Virtual mentoring is a strategy that helps organizations foster meaningful relationships and maintain personal connections, even while team members are working from home. In recognition of the basic need for human connection, a virtual mentorship program establishes deeper communication between mentors and mentees.
This strategy serves to support both mentors and mentees as it enables them to feel less isolated, while reaffirming their engagement with the organization. Resources like conversation starters, goal templates, and forums can give your mentors and mentees the structure and opportunity they need to engage in a conscious manner.
A virtual mentorship program serves to benefit not only the mentor and mentee but the organization as a whole. A Boston University study revealed that a majority of mentors involved in well-organized mentorship programs felt they got more out of the program than they expected, such as developing management skills and gaining valuable employee insights.
Further, mentorship programs can enable a strong engagement with and commitment to a company, helping to lower turnover rates in organizations.
Benefits of Virtual Mentoring Programs
A virtual mentorship program helps organizations not only save time and resources but also improve the integration of new and valuable employees by providing them with valuable networks and connections from day one.
1. Flexibility and Convenience
Virtual mentoring programs are especially beneficial for mentors and mentees when it comes to flexibility and convenience. With the help of technology, participants in a mentorship program can easily meet online at a time convenient for those involved. This is helpful for team members and employees who are taking care of family members, pets and responsibilities at home.
It’s no secret that parents are struggling to balance heavy workloads and at-home schooling for their families. With childcare and school schedules still precarious at times, employees will be grateful for the flexibility and support afforded by a virtual program.
2. Larger Pool of Mentors
The existence of a virtual mentorship program might, in fact, encourage more mentors to participate. The existence of a virtual mentorship program might, in fact, encourage more mentors to participate.
In order to stay connected to colleagues and their organization, mentors may find more time to engage with a mentee. The program provides an opportunity for both mentor and mentee to connect and for the mentor to learn more about the employee experience. The virtual space allows programs to invite more people to be involved, especially demographics and employee populations who might not choose to participate in a more traditional mentoring program.
3. Higher Number of Participants
In the hybrid workplace, virtual mentoring allows participants to connect whenever, wherever. Mentors and mentees are not restricted to just those individuals in the cubes and offices usually around them. Mentees can connect to preferred mentors with desired skill sets whether they’re in New York, LA or Dubai. Employees are likely desiring more guidance and structure while working from home, currently substituting the interactions they became accustomed to at work.The nature of a virtual mentorship can open up new possibilities and offer fresh perspectives for the mentee.
4. Inspires Authentic Relationships
The most profound benefit of virtual mentoring programs is the ability to inspire authentic relationships between participants. A mentee can find it easier to communicate with openness and honesty in a remote setting rather than in the workplace. Secure in the comfort of their homes, the mentor and mentee may establish a feeling of mutual trust sooner than if the mentoring were occurring onsite. This necessary element of trust between the participants will lead the way to an authentic mentoring relationship.
Virtual Mentorship Programs Solve Traditional Challenges
Many of the challenges presented by a traditional mentorship program are easily solved by transitioning to a virtual mentorship program.
- Communication Hurdles. A virtual mentorship program can improve communication between employees that work in different departments or different locations. For mentees who would normally be intimidated by an executive-level mentor, communicating via email, MS Teams, Slack or Zoom may render the communication more approachable.
- Connection Issues. Whereas a mentee may find it difficult to touch base with a mentor in the physical workplace setting, establishing a connection may be easier through virtual channels.
- Issues of Inclusion. Participants may feel excluded if they cannot find a mentor who understands their needs, experience, and background. A virtual mentorship program opens the field for mentees to seek an appropriate mentor in other office locations, even ones in other countries.
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How Do You Mentor Someone Virtually?
- Establish Expectations. A healthy way to start a virtual mentorship program is to establish expectations from the very start. The program administrator bears the responsibility to set forth the goals of the program and to make those goals clear to all participants. With this knowledge in hand, both mentors and mentees can embark on a focused developmental plan for the relationship.
- Show Initiative and Enthusiasm. Actions speak louder than words, so a virtual mentorship program that inspires proactivity is key for any organization hoping to see improvement. Consistent reminders and check-ins from the program administrator will remind participants of their commitment to the program and help them feel connected even outside of the mentorship relationship.
- Utilize Digital Tools. Harness the power of technology by emphasizing connection tools used by your organization (i.e., Slack, Zoom, or MS Teams). These tools serve to drive communications in a friendly and personable manner and ease the pain of isolation during a difficult time.
Virtual Mentorship: Key Takeaways
Shifting from face-to-face interaction to electronic communication may feel abrupt, but it’s a necessary transition. There is hope for your workplace to grow and flourish even in trying times if you can maintain a strong support system for your employees.
The development of the hybrid workplace presents an opportunity for participants to participate in virtual mentoring since they may be seeking community and connection while working remote or virtually. A virtual mentoring program can keep participants engaged and connected while staying committed to the organization.
For those struggling with the multitude of changes that have come with the hybrid workplace, a caring virtual mentorship program may be the most valuable asset your organization can provide in these uncertain times.