Mentoring SoftwareNovember 21, 2007
How should you use technology when implementing a mentoring program?When implementing a mentoring program it is absolutely vital to realize that any technology or a software application that is used should support the program/initiative.
Technology is a tool – technology supports a methodology – it is not the methodology itself!
We have become very adept at using technology to solve many of our business problems. Whenever a business initiative is considered for the organization, one of the natural tendencies is to immediately try to identify a specific technology or software/application that can make the process of implementation easier and faster.
Technology supports business initiatives in a myriad of ways. None of us want to return to the days of using an adding machine to sum long columns of numbers when a simple formula in a spreadsheet application will do this for us. Nor do we want to manually search through personnel records to identify and count how many individuals in the organization have advanced degrees when our human resource database applications will provide that information to at the push of a button or at best, a few key strokes.
Be very careful with this thinking process because mentoring is different.
If you turn your mentoring initiative over to technology you may lose the human aspect that is so vital to a mentoring relationship. The relationship between a Mentor and Mentee is different than many other relationships that an individual has in their personal or business career.
Let’s relate this to the Mentor/Mentee matching and pairing process.
The first and foremost criteria for a good Mentor/Mentee matching and pairing should be based on development. It doesn’t matter if that development is focused on a specific skill/competency, a specific area of expertise or a specific networking and career pathing concentration.
The interpersonal criteria of matching and pairing should be considered after the developmental criteria. We have heard from many, many individuals who have stated that their Mentor was not necessarily their best friend. But when it came to developing in a particular skill/competency or area of expertise or having someone that guided their career – this individual was the best person with whom to be matched and paired.
But…it is also very important to understand that if the “interpersonal relationship” is so bad that it prohibits the “developmental relationship” – then it is still not a good match.
So how does technology fit into all of this?
Technology can be used to provide information to assist in making a decision for the Mentor/Mentee matching process.
The key wording in this statement is that it provides information to assist in making a decision – it should not make the decision for either the Mentee or the Mentor.
Now, let’s relate technology and software applications to the training aspect of the mentoring initiative.
Because of many perceptions and misperceptions regarding mentoring, it is important that training programs provide the opportunity for human interaction!
Often, participation in a formal mentoring initiative is an individuals’ first real experience with the concept. They may have had informal Mentors or Mentees in the past, but many times these were more “network” or just good “business” relationships, They were not a formal mentoring relationship wherein each participant could look back and actually define what was learned and what development that took place.
Because this may be a new or different experience for the participants, they should have the opportunity to express their concerns and voice their perceptions or misperceptions regarding the concept of mentoring, their role in the Mentor/Mentee relationship and how they see this working for them in their everyday life. This cannot be accomplished as well when interacting with technology – individuals need to talk these issues out someone – they need to express how they feel.
How about e-Learning and mentoring?
Time and again individuals say they really like e-Learning initiatives, but they feel that they should be focused on technical skills/competencies and not soft skills/competencies. Even when the e-Learning is appropriate, the number one issue that learners articulate is the lack of human contact when they have a problem or need to discuss an issue. Mentoring initiatives have greatly assisted in alleviating this concern through chat rooms, formal mentoring initiatives or one-on-one coaching mentoring relationships.
How can technology support a mentoring initiative?
Technology and a software application can provide information to assist in making a decision in the choice of a Mentor or Mentee. This information about one individual’s areas of expertise and another individual’s need for assistance in developing areas of expertise or knowledge can provide a foundation for a good match between two individuals in the a mentoring relationship.
Technology can support a mentoring initiative by providing information about the mentoring initiative that is static, i.e., terminology being used, types of mentoring being offered, general information regarding steps to take, name and location of support materials and individuals. It can be used to monitor the process and individual learning agreements to ensure that the mentoring initiative is helping the organization meet its business goals, based on the objectives and measurements that were originally set up for the process.
Remember…Technology is a tool – technology supports a methodology – it is not the methodology itself! Be sure to use your technology or software application wisely!