Here is how companies benefit from implementing virtual mentoring in a remote setting

Virtual Mentoring in a Nutshell: Benefits, Challenges, and More

In this guest post, Grace Lau, Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, looks into the advantages and obstacles of virtual mentoring for remote teams and offers a step-by-step plan to implement online mentoring schemes.


Throughout history, a key dynamic has remained unchanged: the tutor-tutee relationship. As a species, we learn best through example and guidance. Much of our society is based upon this philosophy, with children attending school and adults going on to university or learning in the workplace. 

Mentoring is a clear example of this in practice. A relationship between two people with the goal of personal and professional development, it allows a more experienced individual to pass on knowledge and skills to another. It is commonplace across industries in both formal and informal settings.

But what does this look like in 2021? Many of us have been working remotely for close to two years now. Salespeople have had to learn how to do a webinar to sell their products, managers to coordinate meetings on virtual platforms, and team members to communicate via instant messaging services. Many others have started in new roles without ever directly meeting their team or having the chance to build organic relationships with their peers or senior members. For mentoring to continue within companies, it thus had to go virtual. 

Interestingly, research has suggested that virtual communication methods are actually proving to be more effective and preferred by those taking part in mentoring schemes. So what does this mean for your company? 

What Is Virtual Mentoring? 

Virtual mentoring is any mentoring session that doesn’t take place in person. So it may require figuring out how to conference call on Android or another operating system. You may question the effectiveness of mentoring via online platforms and video calls, but the reality is that, as a population, we have adapted to this technology, and it can bring with it many perks. 

Mentoring is an extremely beneficial practice in the workplace for employee development and job satisfaction. Even a global pandemic didn’t put a stop to it. Nor should it have, particularly when remote and flexible working and the numerous benefits they bring are here to stay. Because of this, it’s never been more important to ensure that your employees know the fundamentals of successful remote work. 



What Are the Benefits of Virtual Mentoring? 

Mentoring in general provides a great opportunity for employees to widen their skill sets and get advice from a colleague who’s more experienced in a certain area. This can give workers increased confidence in their decision-making and help to create a positive and collaborative working environment. Virtual mentoring has all the expected benefits of ‘normal’ mentoring, plus many of its own. These include:

Convenience  

When it comes to the logistics of mentoring, doing it virtually is far more convenient. While workers may previously have been limited by location as to who their mentor was, by doing it online, they can turn to experts around the world for advice. While mentoring schemes are likely to be between employees working in the same office, many companies have an international presence and numerous locations. So remote schemes can open up a variety of opportunities and relationships for your workers. 

Furthermore, in this time of remote working, even if the mentor and mentee are based in the same office, they may not always be in at the same time. Virtual mentoring enables these relationships to continue regardless. Not only are mentors and mentees unrestricted in terms of location, but your mentoring scheme can be a lot more flexible time-wise. For example, if you have an employee who’s struggling with prioritizing tasks, they can have a quick video call with their mentor and ask for advice. 

This immediacy enables your company to improve efficiency and avoids your struggling employee focusing on the wrong tasks while they wait for an in-person meeting to provide them with guidance. 

Variety

People don’t have the same skills, so why not have a variety of mentors? It’s said that variety is the spice of life, after all. As virtual mentoring is so flexible, it enables employees to have several mentors according to their needs. Whether they’re looking for industry insights or to improve their presentation skills, the right teacher is out there and readily available. 

Virtual mentoring also makes it easier to improve diversity and inclusivity within your organization. Factors that would previously have prevented people from getting involved — such as capacity and location — no longer need to be considered. This can enable employees to be mentored and mentor others without unfair or inadvertently prejudicial restrictions. 

You might also find more employees want to get involved with mentoring in this lower-pressure situation. Social anxiety and nerves — particularly for those starting out — are extremely common. Having a screen between can help make it a less intimidating experience and enable more introverted team members to experience the same benefits as extroverted ones.  

What Are the Challenges?

Of course, despite these positives, virtual mentoring does bring some challenges. This shouldn’t put you off — you just need to plan for if/when these obstacles occur. 

Interpersonal Challenges 

If you’ve ever tried online dating, you’ll be familiar with the difficulty of building a connection via technology. It can be challenging to get to know someone properly through a screen, and as much of a mentoring relationship is reliant on an interpersonal connection, this is important to bear in mind. 

It’s easy enough to overcome, however. Encouraging employees to hold meetings via video call rather than phone or direct message can increase the level of personal interaction. It’s also important to emphasize and encourage patience. Things take time, and relationships, in particular, exemplify this. It’s a good idea to have ice-breaker meetings beforehand, by playing online games like quizzes, for example. This can help take the edge off what can feel like a very formal situation. 

This leads us on to a more general issue with remote working: social isolation and a lack of community. This isn’t only relevant to your mentoring scheme but employee well-being as a whole. Working from home can significantly reduce people’s social time. You can help employees to feel more connected by designing mentoring programs that create a feeling of community. Whether it’s pairing up women or creating a support network for LGBTQ+ employees, this can be a great opportunity to help them develop professionally and find a social connection in the workplace. 

Technological Challenges 

Technology — we love to hate it. It’s improved our lives drastically and opened doors we never imagined possible. But is also one of the greatest sources of frustration in our day-to-day lives. There’s nothing worse than when you’re in the middle of a video call and the internet keeps cutting out, so all you hear is a robotic mash-up of noises. 

Again, this is easily avoidable, and for as long as we continue to work from home, it’s an essential obstacle to prepare for. Make sure you’re getting the internet you’re paying for, and if it’s prone to being unreliable, have a trusty backup plan to hand. This could be connecting to 4/5G or switching the meeting to a phone call. 

Regardless, there’s no point wasting time, hoping the connection will improve, and missing half of the information being conveyed. You need to make your video calls productive, so you don’t want to miss a second of them. 



Summing Up 

Now we’ve covered the pros and cons, all that’s left to do is make a decision. If you’re still umming and ahhing, let us make it for you: give virtual mentoring a go. Here’s how to do it: 

  • Contact senior employees or employees you think could have a lot to offer in terms of skills development or industry insight. Find out how many of them would be interested in mentoring less experienced employees.  
  • Conduct brief interviews with your less-experienced employees and their managers to identify potential weak spots. 
  • With this data, begin matching pairs up and booking regular meetings between them in their schedules. At least at first, it’s a good idea to take the responsibility for this into your hands, as people may forget when it isn’t something they’ve done before. 
  • Evaluate the success of your mentoring program. Are your employees getting what they need out of it? Conducting reviews could be a great way to look into this. 
  • As time goes on, if mentoring proves to be a successful initiative in your workplace, it could become an expectation for all employees to take on new starters, so there’s always a support network in place for them to fall back on. 

Mentoring is a highly beneficial process for employees at all stages of their careers. So don’t let remote working get in the way of this. By moving mentoring schemes online, they can continue to learn from the experiences of those who went before them and get great advice any time they need it. 


Grace Lau

Author Bio

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered leader in cloud communications for supercharged team collaboration and outbound lead generation. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content.



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