Distance Mentoring - Your Global Mentoring ProgramApril 15, 2016
We have seen an uptake of global mentoring programs in the last few years since online mentoring software can support these types of programs better than years ago, this means distance mentoring is on the rise. We asked Stephen Grindrod, Managing Director of Career Services, on the best practices on supporting mentoring programs that have distance mentoring.
How can you connect mentors and mentees who aren’t in the same location?
By accessing an online mentoring software portal in the workplace. Today, employees have experience in using social media to build valuable relationships online. With mentoring software, you can do the same. Employees first need to fill out a profile, and then answer a number of questions that qualifies their needs for mentoring or their strengths to provide mentoring. Mentees are then able to see a list of qualified mentors based on their needs and where the mentor is located. Similar to social media platforms the mentee and mentor can connect if they feel the relationship will work. Think about online dating; statistics released from Forbes.com cite that about 35% of people meet online in this day and age; so the idea is not as abstract as it used to be. This can be applied not only in the dating world, but in the world of mentoring too.
What tips would you provide when choosing a mentor in another location?
First, create a detailed profile that includes your experience, education, and core competencies; this is crucial. Then, decide which regions in the world you think it will be possible to have a mentor, for example, if you are in Asia, you may not want a mentor in North America due to the time difference and possible language barriers. You need to also specify your preferred communication tools to conduct your mentoring session; Skype, email, web conferencing, phone are all good examples. Finally, what are your preferred languages you need your mentor to speak in? Everything else should be the same as a relationship that is face to face.
If mentees never meet their mentor in person, do they still get the support they need?
Yes, as long as they have a mentoring agreement in place at the start of the relationship. This will cement each other’s expectations to ensure they receive the support they need. They should meet on a regular basis, at least at first, to help build a rapport and possibly use webcams if both parties agree. The main priority is ensuring the mentor has the skills and competencies needed to fulfill the mentees learning needs.
What are the challenges in distance mentoring relationships and how do you overcome them?
Sometimes the challenge is the interaction between mentor and mentee. You can gauge how interested someone is when you are talking them by reading their body language. When communicating with someone virtually you may not be able to know if your mentoring partner is listening to you or what type of emotions they are currently feeling. Completing a psychometric assessment at the start of the relationship may help each other understand their working style and personality better. If the mentor and mentee are using a type of technology tool to communicate, they both need to have the technology installed and understand how to use it before their first meeting. The meeting can become very frustrating if one or the other cannot use the technology agreed to use.
What are some advantages of distance mentoring?
You have a larger pool of potential mentors to choose from. If you can only have a mentor within your immediate working group/office, you may not get the very best mentor to meet your needs. It is the difference between getting development from a mentor that is “good”, or having the opportunity to get the very best, most experienced development from a mentor (through mentor training or experience). Meeting times can be much more flexible if members of the partnership are in different time zones, or if their roles require travel, etc. Distance mentoring breaks down “silos” within an organization and you get to know people in other areas of the organization and other locations that you might never meet if it wasn’t for the mentoring partnership. In addition, you get to know what that part of the organization does that you might never be in contact with if it wasn’t for the mentoring partnership.
What can program administrators do to make distance mentoring as successful?
The program admin will act as the mediator in the relationship; provide guidelines, or best practices on how to work virtually together. The admin makes sure that it is clearly communicated what the major advantages are for mentor and mentee, as well as communicating the challenges and providing training and solutions on how to address the challenges. They should do check-ins and follow-ups to ensure the partnerships are going well and the members are really meeting (and not cancelling meetings). Keep continual communications going to reinforce the advantages of this type of mentoring.
Overall, distance mentoring is a perk of the day and age we live in; and can be used to a tremendous advantage in a global scale for an organization. Though the relationship is not face to face, the quality of the skill being gained aren’t jeopardized because of the distance gap. If you are interested in learning more, click here.