The Benefits of Hi-Tech, Hi-Touch Mentoring

December 03, 2009
As a rule of thumb, every HR leader knows and employs the positive ROI rule when deciding on a new initiative. This rule is especially important when investing in talent management technology, which requires an additional cash outlay for the company and changes the way in which many HR administrators, managers and employees perform day-to-day tasks.

With that in mind, the question is whether technology can be a part of a successful mentoring initiative. Mentoring is, after all, purely about relationships between people. In fact, in the realm of talent management, mentoring relationships are as “hi-touch” as you can get. And no one disputes the potential gains to an organization from a good mentoring initiative. But at first glance, the chances of an investment in an online solution that supports and generates a positive ROI may seem few and far between. How is technology going to help?

In fact, for firms running medium to large-scale mentoring initiatives, using software to facilitate and complement the initiative produces tangible gains. A good online solution can support a mentoring initiative and enable companies to achieve their mentoring-related business objectives in the following ways:

-Facilitate sound matching & pairing relationships.
Well-defined, focused, and mutually beneficial Mentor-Mentee relationships are the backbone of successful mentoring initiatives. While matching-and-pairing can be done by people, a systematic online process can help mentoring administrators connect Mentors and Mentees more quickly, using an array of clear and specific personal criteria to generate the most suitable matches for mutual personal and career development.

With a well-designed technology solution, participants are able to complete various assessments and fill in a wide range of relevant information including current job title, skills, personality traits on the job, individual timetable, and clear and specific mentoring goals. The technology can then do the “lo-touch” work, indicating possible choices for Mentors with Mentees according to their respective traits and goals via a customizable algorithm. This frees up administrators for more “hi-touch” work within the mentoring initiative.

-Increase administrative efficiency
Armed with a series of online back-office support capabilities, mentoring administrators and consultants can deliver a high quality initiative while saving time and resources. In addition to tools for matching and pairing, a well-designed mentoring software solution typically features assessments, data tracking, and reporting tools. These enable administrators and consultants to oversee the program more closely and promptly cater to the needs of its participants on both sides of the Mentor-Mentee relationship.

-Enhance program capacity, thereby reducing overall training costs.
Ultimately, greater administrative efficiency means a greater program capacity and, therefore, a greater participation rate within the organization. It is widely known that effective mentoring, when complementing or replacing expensive offsite training initiatives, can help an organization cut training costs per employee and increase the amount of time an employee remains on the job. Over time, facilitating an initiative with technology will increase the total value of these savings and productivity gains for the firm.

It is important to keep in mind that an online mentoring solution typically works for some firms and not others. By way of the avenues above, economies of scale tend to generate more profitable opportunities for very large firms using mentoring software and less profitable opportunities for small ones. In general, an integrated technology solution works best for firms with a minimum of 75-100 employees, says Judy Corner, Director of Consulting Services at Insala.

Regardless of the size of your firm, it is paramount to determine the ROI of purchasing and implementing mentoring technology. For many firms, incorporating an online solution into a new or existing initiative can render a “hi-tech, hi-touch” career development solution – one that boosts not only employee morale and productivity, but the bottom line as well.

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