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Effective Mentoring in a Virtual Workplace

Mentorship provides stability in the midst of unprecedented transformation, professional upheaval, and crushing isolation. However, how do we provide guidance to a widely dispersed workforce?

The shift to remote work has been challenging for all of us, and the impact on our professional relationships has been as noticeable as the change in how we go about our daily work. The lack of opportunities for an informal conversation at work can be especially difficult for new workers. When working independently, how does one acquire the skills necessary for professional advancement? How does one go about making the contacts necessary for success and promotion in one's chosen field of work?

How does an organisation foster a culture that encourages and promotes diversity and inclusion efforts?

Our recent experience as leaders of online mentorship organisations has led us to the conclusion that these problems can be solved through a group-wide emphasis on mentoring.

Effective mentoring at Extax

For first-generation virtual workforce, the new professional paradigm is a rigorous one-on-one mentoring and career development programme that opens doors to best practice and promotes blue ocean mindset proliferation.

When our mentoring programmes suddenly went online, we had to make some major adjustments. As a means of preparing the workforce of the future, we should move away from in-person training and mentoring and instead provide resources and support through digital platforms. Now is the time to foster a team of talented people with varied experiences and perspectives, and we have done so successfully.

People of minority backgrounds and women are more likely than men to report mentoring as very important to their career development, making mentorship and sponsorship crucial to employee retention and satisfaction. Mentorship helps employees grow and advance, which can increase retention. On the recruiting side, undergraduate mentorship programmes create talent pipelines and open doors for specialists who are typically overlooked, like those attending to not for profit industries. Making bad hiring decisions and providing inadequate support to employees has always been expensive, but the stakes have never been higher than they are now. These are both things that can be avoided with the help of a mentor.

Creating the Working Mindset of Tomorrow

Finding, developing, and deploying top talent: the secret sauce of successful businesses.

Decades of studies have uncovered two key aspects of successful mentoring: developing a relationship with the mentee and helping them focus on their goals.

Making Genuine and Meaningful Connections

The ability to connect with a mentee makes mentoring much more than just an administrative duty. However, constructing in a simulated environment presents its own unique set of difficulties. We say that two people have rapport when they are able to communicate effectively and when they are able to trust and respect one another. If you want to keep talented people, especially those from groups that are underrepresented in your company or industry, you need to invest in the quality of these relationships. Research by Gartner and Capital Analytics at Sun Microsystems found that both mentees and mentors had significantly higher retention rates (72 and 69 percent, respectively) than non-participants in the mentoring programme (49 percent). How to Make Friends and Influence People

Apply a comprehensive method to mentoring.

Our private and professional lives have become increasingly intertwined after the Covid-19 epidemic. Organisations that recognise this fact are more likely to keep their top employees, while those that don't will see their competitive edge erode as a result.

Communication between mentors and mentees was found to be most effective when it emphasised that discussing topics other than work and school was not only acceptable, but encouraged. We also identified emerging standards for online behaviour that take a more holistic approach, such as "you never have to apologise for interruptions from children and pets," with the goal of making online communication less taxing. Mentoring of this type recognises a fundamental reality: work-life balance is an illusion, and work is merely one facet of our lives. Our inability to compartmentalise is highlighted by the fact that many of us now conduct business from overcrowded homes, where the constant noise of children at play is a constant reminder of the need for childcare.

Both employers and employees benefit when employees are able to align their deepest human motivations and values with their work. Despite Organisations' best efforts, Gallup reports that nearly 85% of the world's workforce is neither engaged nor actively disengaged in their work. A recent study from the University of Miami found that 65% of young people have experienced an increase in loneliness since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that 80% have experienced "significant depressive symptoms."

In the face of these difficulties, having a mentor can help us remain resilient and connected. It is up to the mentor and mentee to determine how closely they want to be involved in each other's personal and professional lives, as different organisations have different needs in this regard. Still, recognising the extent to which our private and professional lives overlap provides a solid foundation for any mentoring relationship.

Give up happy hour for some one-on-one chats.

Many businesses have attempted to manage connection during the pandemic by holding virtual group social events and happy hours rather than focusing on individual relationships, but attendance has dropped dramatically after the first few months. Many people say they get tired from participating in virtual group events.

Spending time developing genuine, in-depth relationships with individuals can be a welcome change of pace. Mentoring pairs will be able to see past their differences through guided dialogue and discussion questions. We've found that virtual one-on-ones on a regular basis allow for the kind of genuine connection that can't be made in large groups.

Having a single person speak for three minutes about their life story is one of the most powerful virtual mentoring activities we use at ANY. Few people can think of an instance in the last few years in which they were actually listened to for an entire minute and eighty-eight seconds. People who were complete strangers just a few minutes ago now know intimate details about one another's lives, thanks to their candid accounts of dealing with professional and personal rejection, among other difficulties. Discussing our motivations, our families, and the ups and downs of our lives is essential to any conversation about our professional endeavours.

Include various means of interaction.

The generational divide can be seen in people's favoured modes of communication. Provide rules and methods for communicating (for example, by showing people how to use Slack or Zoom, or proving guidance about whether texting is encouraged or discouraged). Then, have the mentoring pairs experiment to see what works best for them.

Our mentoring "Communications and Expectations Plan," outlining how and when pairs would like to check in, is one of the first things pairs do when they join ANY. Help people learn to use technology in ways that foster relationships by, for example, instructing paired mentors and mentees on how to make the most of video chats through the use of annotations and reactions or directing them to online assessment instruments, tools, and games that they can complete together.

Recognize the benefits of remote connection and challenge its assumed limitations.

Meeting virtually doesn't have to be a poor substitute for meeting in person; in fact, there are situations in which the online meeting is an improvement. Mentoring from a distance has the potential to eliminate the biases that arise when we learn about another person's height, physical ability, or pregnancy status, to name a few.

Without worrying about how far apart people live, you can focus more on compatibility based on your shared values and interests. It's possible that by making the most of the resources at your disposal, you'll be able to create something even more sturdy than before.

Instruct individuals in the use of digital tools for social interaction and the promotion of knowledge sharing in the realm of information technology. Keep in mind that the absence of physical objects or motion does not preclude their use in a virtual setting. Sending a physical letter or package through the mail can serve as a comforting touchstone. The contents of a package can be shared by a mentor and mentee (cookies, notebooks, company swag, etc.) Do you have no money? Check in with one another while out walking or sharing a common experience (like a cup of coffee).

Winning with a Mentor

Purpose Statement

If you want to strengthen your mentorship relationship, injecting it with a clear sense of purpose can do wonders. In the absence of it, mentorships can devolve into pleasant friendships without advancing the professional development of mentees. In order to define our goals more precisely:

Make goals and recognise accomplishments.

We rely on stories to help us make sense of our experiences because humans are naturally narrative creatures. By reflecting on "where we started, how far we've come, and where we're going," mentoring pairs can strengthen their ability to overcome adversity. Goals should be established and reviewed, and a public or semi-public forum established for pairs to discuss their progress. Despite the fact that such discussions may have taken place informally within the office walls, remote workers require the proactive cultivation of digital equivalents.

A culture of celebration can spread through the sharing of victory videos and photos and through participation in public or private online forums. We have seen organisations successfully use online compliment books or "word clouds" to inspire each other, and one of ANY's sites replaced its traditional matching ceremony with a video with pictures of each pair. Finally, at the end of each workshop, we have an open forum for "Public and Private Victories" to verbally celebrate successes, share lessons learned, and publicly thank others for support. After a workshop is over, mentor/mentee pairs often keep in touch via Slack. We've seen this practise adopted in some form or another by many of our former employees and mentees at the organisations they've moved on to work for.

Taking a cue from Silicon Valley, a "daily stand-up" to give a forum for discussing progress and areas of difficulty. Standups are a great way to break down barriers to cooperation, keep tabs on learning (and encourage accountability), and celebrate small victories along the long road to data science expertise.

Integrate mentoring with the organization's guiding principles.

Clarify the importance of mentoring to the company and why you're encouraging it. Do you have a place where people can meet to discuss professional aspirations and/or hone their abilities? Even when employees don't work in the same building, a strong corporate culture can be fostered through virtual mentoring by anchoring programme goals in the company's core values.

Repeated workshops alternate between instructing mentees in professional and leadership skills and allowing time for the mentor and mentee to provide their own context and hone any relevant abilities. We argue that a model with the same emphasis on teaching corporate values and contextualising them between mentor and mentee can be successful in businesses. If fostering community is your end goal, have mentees and mentee pairs discuss the ways in which they contribute to the development of their local communities. If you want to foster a culture of innovation and creativity, have pairs reimagine a routine task and share what they've learned along the way.

Consistency and Creating Your Unique Plan

Rather than focusing on how to maintain engagement throughout the mentoring relationship, many programmes put a lot of effort into matching participants at the outset and assessing their progress at the end. Having a regular mentoring session is especially important in the online world. (We advise that you have check-ins once a week.) Being reliable inspires confidence. Keeping commitments to one another and being there for one another fosters reliability. Consider online modules, which typically consist of a video or article and a set of discussion questions. If you have a plan before you start talking, you're more likely to have fruitful conversations about things that really matter to you.

Work together in the here and now

Don't just talk about your plans; take action to make them a reality. Use screen sharing to your advantage, as it is a useful tool for facilitating teamwork and is especially beneficial for those who learn best through visual means. Rather than constantly providing advice, mentors should step back and let their mentees take the reins. This way, the mentor can observe the mentee's progress and gain insight into how well he or she is doing. Using a synchronised tool, such as Padlet or Google Docs, to collaborate with a partner can boost productivity and morale because the pair can more easily observe their collective accomplishments.

To Evolve At Any Stage of our Lives, We Need Mentors

Mentorship provides stability in the midst of unprecedented transformation, professional upheaval, and crushing isolation. Supporting people through adversity requires a sense of connection and meaning, which can be fostered through rapport and clarity of purpose, thereby strengthening relationships across one's organisation. Most people understand that having a mentor will benefit a new employee's performance on the job, but the benefits to the mentor themselves are often overlooked. Mentors can gain a lot if they approach the relationship with a spirit of mutuality and recognise that successful mentoring is more about active listening than giving one-way advice.

Our mentoring and career development programme has surveyed hundreds of professionals who have worked with first-generation virtual workforce. More than ninety percent of mentees said they improved as managers and leaders as a result of their mentorship. In fact, learning how to establish connection and purpose in interpersonal relationships is directly relevant to fundamental ideas like situational leadership, wherein a leader's ability to accurately assess the needs of both their team and a given situation is crucial to the success of the business as a whole. If you're a leader who thinks mentoring is just another thing on your plate, we urge you to reconsider this effective tool as a means to freedom and empowerment, and wish you'll find meaning in supporting your team members through mentoring.

Contact us if you require any assistance with creating your virtual professional entourage and set yourself up successfully with great mentors


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