We’re finding that our customers are struggling to launch mentorship programs while they are working remotely.
Some of these organizations are unfamiliar with virtual mentorship. Many global organizations have been successfully connecting dispersed teams for years.
What is a virtual mentor?
Mentors who are veterans in their field are available online to guide novices on the right path. They communicate through methods such as video conferencing and chat.
Mentors work to help develop their mentee’s career, as well as addressing any personal challenges they may have. They also help manage and set expectations for success. They help people by giving them advice, being mentors, and teaching them lessons. The best part about it is that you get to grow through real relationships and improve your communication skills, without being limited by physical distance.
Is virtual mentoring second to in-person mentoring relationships?
There is no clear consensus when it comes to the effectiveness of mentoring relationships. Many experts argue that virtual mentoring can actually be more successful than in-person mentoring because it allows for more flexible scheduling, anonymity (which can encourage more honest communication), and a larger pool of knowledgeable mentors to choose from. However, others argue that the personal connection and face-to-face interactions of in-person mentoring are essential for building trust and developing a strong relationship.
Virtual mentoring is not second to in-person mentoring. The only difference is how and where it happens.
Benefits of Virtual Mentoring: What’s in it for you?
A virtual mentoring program is an online mentoring program. It can be an incredible alternative to traditional on-site mentoring, giving you access to a wider range of talent. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, or being mentored, you may be wondering what the benefits are of virtual mentoring.
Virtual mentoring meetings are flexible & convenient
Thanks to technology, participants in a mentorship program can connect online from any location at a time that works for both of them. There are no 9-5 office hours or room bookings that restrict them.
Especially with the pandemic, parents struggle with work-life balance as they must attend to their families and kids (since most daycares and babysitters are unavailable) while committing to work all under one roof.
The ability to make calls whenever you want from the comfort of your home is very appealing to people with familial responsibilities. You don’t have to limit your professional growth because you’re staying at home–virtual mentoring can help make sure of that.
More likely to find the perfect match to catalyze growth
If a mentee can’t find a mentor who understands their needs, experience, and background, they may feel excluded and disheartened. A mentor may feel that they are unable to help their mentee and that their time is being wasted if the mentee is not interested in what the mentor has to offer. This is a waste of time and money.
A virtual mentoring program allows you to connect with mentors and mentees from a much wider range of locations than you would be able to with a traditional mentoring program. This means that you are more likely to find a good match if you are willing to wait, rather than settling for a mediocre relationship because it is the only one available to you.
Learn or teach at your own pace
It is not a secret that many people in society are not morning people, do not like working in the afternoon, and some of us are night-owls who can accomplish great things at night.
You will be happier and more productive if you work during the time of day when you feel the most energetic and focused.
You can revisit lectures and units as often as you like, and take them at your own pace For mentees, the fact that online courses are easily accessible and replayable is a positive. You can revisit lectures and units as often as you like, and take them at your own pace. You no longer need to attend the class at 2:00 PM. You can click play at 3 in the morning if you want to – it doesn’t matter what time you work and learn best.
Mentors can deviate from the curriculum if they need to. They can help you set reasonable deadlines for any goals or projects, and offer continued support that fits into your busy schedule.
Accomplish more in your career
You are more likely to achieve goals if they are written down. Seventy percent of people are more likely to achieve their goals if they have a mentor to hold them accountable.
Even though mentoring can be beneficial for the person being mentored, it is often seen as benefiting only that person. Though a mentor may already be experienced and qualified, they can still benefit greatly from research-backed methods.
Mentoring relationships make people feel more confident and empowered and can also make mentors more productive. Having confidence in your abilities at work can lead to better performance and success in your career.
A display of selflessness, initiative, and leadership is a strong indication to others that you are a qualified individual who supports collective growth and success.
What are the challenges of mentoring someone virtually?
Virtual mentorship programs have their strengths. Face-to-face mentoring is easier to establish a connection with than digital mentoring because of a few elements. These include:
Virtual mentoring can be less engaging
When communicating online, there is potential for a lack of engagement. It can be difficult to connect with others online, but there are some things you can do to overcome this challenge.
How to mitigate this challenge
- Regularly check in with your mentee and get to know them on a personal level.
- Make an effort to be engaged and interested in what they say.
- Encourage participation by asking questions and soliciting feedback.
- Focus on their interests and goals.
- Create opportunities for social interaction outside of the mentoring sessions.
Lack of non-verbal communication
A lot of our communication is non-verbal, which is hard to understand through a computer screen. This is especially true when mentoring occurs over emails, chats, or phone calls because it can be harder to build a relationship over distance. A lot can get lost in translation.
How to mitigate this challenge
- Try to have video calls.
- Be clear and concise in your communication.
One of the challenges of having a mentor who is virtual is making sure you have the right tools. If your company doesn’t have the right mentorship platform or conferencing tools, it can make it harder to connect.
How to mitigate this challenge
- Make sure you use an effective mentoring platform to manage your relationship.
- Schedule your sessions on the platform so they include customizable agendas.
- Connect your calendar tools so you’re reminded of upcoming sessions.
Although most mentoring platforms have a strong matching algorithm, there are still several reasons why participants can be wrongly paired. Paired teams who have different learning styles or who don’t have a good connection with each other may have difficulty working together effectively.
How to mitigate this challenge
- Allow mentors and mentees to provide feedback on their match.
- Promptly rematch participants when there isn’t a good fit.
How to Make Virtual Mentoring Work
Some benefits of virtual mentoring are that it is more convenient, you can find a better match, it can be more personalized, and it can help with career growth and success. But, it also brings forth some challenges. Nothing is perfect, after all. But we will also look at some solutions to reduce the negative effects.
1. Encourage participation
Modern technology is great for bringing people together, but it still can’t replace meeting someone in person. While virtual mentoring may have some benefits, it may also be harmful to some people.
The vast majority of communication is non-verbal, so the way you speak and the way you carry yourself communicates a lot about your emotions, motives, and feelings. That makes our interactions more interesting and meaningful. People who rely on body language to get to know somebody might have a more difficult time adjusting to virtual mentoring sessions.
Mentoring is all about human connection. If mentors and mentees communicated asynchronously, through chat and long-form messaging for example, it would help to prevent communication-based issues from arising and hold both parties accountable throughout the relationship.
To create the best interaction with non-verbal cues, video calls are encouraged. Icebreakers and social time can help you get to know each other better.
2. Accommodate to different time zones
Mentorships that are virtual can allow you to be exposed to a greater range of mentors, but there are some negative aspects to this as well. If the mentor and mentee live in different cities or countries with largely gapped time zones, scheduling virtual meetings can be challenging.
A mentor’s open afternoon, maybe a mentee’s dinner time. It can be difficult to find a time to meet that works for everyone involved, which can cause tension and conflict.
When looking for a mentor, it is best to check all the potential options in your time zone before looking outside of it. When approving a mentee, make sure that you’re able to meet their needs and provide them with the same level of energy and commitment you would with someone who is local to you. It might be a good idea not to help them at 10 PM if you don’t think you’ll be very useful.
3. Set regular milestones
Measures that create accountability are necessary for virtual mentoring to be effective. The mentor should set regular milestones for the mentee to accomplish, whether throughout the day, week or month.
Milestones are also an effective way to track progress. Increasing the number of leads prospected during a time period could be considered as an example of success in sales. A mentor in marketing can help guide a mentee to be more active on social media or to blog more as part of their marketing strategy.
Different types of milestones include:
- Daily tasks
- Start and end dates for certain efforts
- Checklist to be completed
The milestones throughout the program ensure that the mentee is developing. One way to assess if your mentee is likely to achieve their goals is to set some goals of your own and see if they are reachable. If the latter happens, it usually causes delays, which is an indication that the program needs to be changed.
Virtual mentoring activities
Decide what kind of mentorship program you want to create. Your options include one-on-one meetings, peer interactions, or group meetings. Whether you choose to have your team work together on assigned tasks or opt for more individualized projects, you’ll still need to provide them with activities to keep them busy or to help them get to know each other. Here are some virtual mentoring activities for the type of program you run:
One-on-one mentoring activities
Since traditional one-on-one mentorship programs must focus on the mentee’s development, here are some activities that can help them grow:
- Check-ins – Ask your mentee about a positive and negative experience of their week
- Ask Questions – Ask great questions to ask mentees in the getting-to-know-you part.
- Skill Development – Run a mini-workshop on a skill your mentee wants to learn or improve.
- Career Mapping – Help your mentee map out the steps needed to get to their ultimate career goal.
- Job Shadowing – Let your mentee shadow or accompany you as you complete a task.
- Project-based Learning – Give your mentee the opportunity to work on a project they are curious about.
- Small Victories – Set achievable milestones and help your mentee celebrate small wins.
- Current Events – Create a safe space to discuss current events within the industry or the state of the world.
Peer mentoring activities
If you choose to pair employees of similar rank or positions together, you may need some peer mentoring activities to help them get started:
- Elevator Pitch Sessions – Help each other craft the right elevator pitch through feedback and revision.
- Problem-Solving Sessions – Meet up regularly to brainstorm solutions to workplace challenges.
- Knowledge-Sharing – Share skills and knowledge and help the other learn new skills.
Group mentorship programs can help teams improve their communication, cooperation, and teamwork. Such programs provide an opportunity for team members to get to know each other better and to learn new skills that can help them work together more effectively. This space is also good for feedback, sharing knowledge, and building community. Here are a few group mentoring activities:
- Career Exploration – Help mentees explore different options available, such as job research and networking.
- Team Building – Identify common goals and work towards them together through brainstorming and problem-solving.
- Industry News – Keep the group up-to-date on current events related to their industry or position through articles, videos, and other material.
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