Mentoring is a proven practice that helps people grow both personally and professionally. Over the past few years, many workplaces have adopted a remote workforce and experienced a drastic shift in how business is done. The needs of employees remain the same, though, no matter how different their days look. Mentoring in the workplace is even more beneficial than ever in the face of the radical increase of remote work.
Many organizations embrace virtual mentorship and coaching, recognizing their continued importance in an online workforce. While challenges come with virtual mentoring, there are many great benefits. Virtual mentoring can be just as effective as in-person mentoring; it requires some preparation and additional skills development.
To successfully mentor employees in a virtual work environment, many factors must be considered and new strategies implemented. Let’s discuss how mentors can best support and guide their mentees in this new landscape.
Utilize Your Digital Workplace
The growth of technology has made virtual mentoring possible. Your company’s tools, apps, and platform are perfect for connecting and engaging with the employees you mentor. Communication and instant messaging apps allow communication between the mentor and mentee. Virtual meetings and video software are ideal for face-to-face coaching; collaboration tools encourage growth and connection.
Cultivate your digital workplace into a place where your mentees feel supported, comfortable, and motivated. The result will be greater employee engagement and productivity. Schedule your sessions in the digital workplace solution, and it will be easy to stay connected.
Building trust is an essential component of any mentor/mentee relationship. However, forming this foundation may be more challenging when virtual. Since the mentee can’t simply drop by your office, as a mentor, you should take the lead by reaching out often and showing that you care about your mentee and their work.
Discuss with them how you will make your virtual relationship safe for both of you and what will or will not be shared with others. Be an active listener and never make assumptions about any part of your mentee’s work or home life. Keep communication open and flowing in both directions.
Set Expectations and Goals
Establishing your expectations of the mentor/mentee relationship is crucial to a successful connection. As a mentor, you must first discover what your mentee hopes to get from the mentorship. This will help to set goals and objectives, and you can work together to make a concrete plan for achieving these goals together.
Before each mentoring session, it is helpful to create a plan about what the session will entail. In this way, you can be sure that each time you meet with your mentee, you are actively working to reach the goals agreed upon at the outset.
The best mentors work from the beginning of the mentorship to build rapport. This may be more challenging in a virtual environment since there is a change of a lack of engagement. Still, understanding your mentee’s personality, values and personal and professional goals is vital.
A mentor must strive to overcome these challenges by regularly checking in with the mentee and making an effort to learn about them. When you ask questions and discuss things other than work, you can get to know each other more personally. This leads to a relationship with a shared understanding of each other’s perspectives.
Set and Keep Boundaries
Even though it is essential to stay connected with your mentee and be accessible, everyone needs and will benefit from boundaries. At the start of the mentorship, have a conversation about conduct and communication. Boundaries are all about respect.
As mentioned, discussing aspects of your lives outside of work is acceptable, but both the mentor and mentee must agree. If there are any specific topics that either party is uncomfortable talking about, those boundaries must be respected.
You should also create boundaries around time. Establishing set hours of availability and a clear schedule will help prevent burnout and lower work-related stress.
Collaborate on Projects
In-person mentoring typically offers many opportunities for working together on projects. It is equally important to collaborate in a virtual mentorship. Collaboration allows the mentee to learn from the mentor while developing their knowledge and skill set. It also supports the development of high-level skills like problem-solving and critical thinking.
Use collaboration to work together on the goals set at the outset of the mentorship. Whenever possible, utilize synchronous work tools in your digital workplace, such as screen sharing, video calls, and instant messaging. With these tools, mentees can shadow and even participate in new tasks, and mentors can coach and keep track of how the mentee is performing.