The Pros and Cons of Virtual Mentoring
Knowledge transfer is a major way that organizations pass on proficiencies and skills from one individual to another. This prevents knowledge loss when an employee leaves, and it provides an excellent source of employee development through peers.
Using mentoring in the workplace is a great way to encourage knowledge transfer, improve employee engagement, and increase employee retention. There are many benefits of mentoring beyond these as well. However, mentoring may be difficult to facilitate if participants are not located close to one another.
A virtual mentoring program is a great way to bypass the location barrier and create valuable mentorships. This type of mentoring involves communicating via email, phone, or webchat in lieu of in-person mentoring sessions. This sounds like a great idea, however there can be some challenges.
Here are the pros and cons of virtual mentoring and how to best use it in the workplace.
Pros of Virtual Mentoring
In addition to the normal benefits of mentoring, virtual mentoring has some benefits of its own.
- Knowledge transfer from both sides. Knowledge transfer in mentoring relationships is not one-sided. Both the mentee and the mentor are able to learn from each other. This provides knowledge flow between different cultures and skill levels as well.
- Flexible meetings. Virtual mentoring allows for flexible meeting times, which is convenient for busy schedules. This convenience allows more people to participate in the program, spreading the benefits further through the organization.
- Larger pools to recruit from. Virtual mentoring lets more individuals participate in your mentoring program. This means a larger program, higher likelihood of great mentor matches, and more wide-spread benefits like employee engagement. It also provides a larger field of knowledge, especially beneficial for flash mentoring.
- Good exposure for participants. Mentors and mentees in different locations now have access to learn from each other. This means the participants will be exposed to new cultures, ideas, and practices. Exposure like this through mentoring promotes diversity awareness throughout the organization.
Cons of Virtual Mentoring (And How to Overcome Them)
Like any program, virtual mentoring has some challenges when compared to traditional mentoring. To maximize the benefits of a virtual mentoring program, you need to prepare to tackle some challenges. Here are some cons of virtual mentoring and tips to overcome them.
- Communication challenges. Virtual communication is limiting to communication cues such as body language and facial expressions. This is especially true for channels such as email and phone calls.
Your mentors and mentees can overcome these communication challenges by using video chat whenever possible. This will allow them to see each other’s facial expressions and body language. It will also formalize the program, so they take it seriously.
- Time zones. When your mentees and mentors are not located in the same place, it is possible that time zones will pose a challenge. In fact, time zones lose US businesses $206 billion a year because of extended-hours and loss of productivity.
To overcome time zone challenges, your program administrators can help participants compromise on meeting times. Effective times can be chosen with a little help to maximize the relationship. This is true even for the furthest of participants.
- Lack of chemistry. Mentees and mentors that aren’t able to interact in person may experience an inability to establish chemistry in the mentorship. This can pose a problem for engagement in the relationship and overall success of the program.
It's easier to overcome chemistry challenges when you have a mentor matching strategy. This will match mentees with the best possible mentor, creating more successful relationships. This can be done well with mentoring software.
- Technology problems. In a perfect world, every form of technology would work all the time. However, that is not the case. Technology failures can be frustrating to both participants and possibly cause a tense relationship.
Technology problems can't always prevented, but you can prepare for them. Encourage your mentors and mentees to prepare contingency plans for when technology issues arise. This will minimize any frustrations and allow the program to continue. This is where email and phone calls can be useful forms of virtual mentoring.
The key to successful virtual mentoring program is a shared understanding of how and when communication will occur. In mentor and mentee training, stress the importance of setting these times at the beginning and sticking to them.
Overall, there are many different pros and cons of virtual mentoring programs, but it can be a huge asset to employee development. You just need to make sure your organization has enough mentors and mentees to participate. You will also need to secure the necessary technology.
To do this, spend some time marketing your mentoring program and consider investing in mentoring software. This will increase success for your mentoring program.
Insala works diligently to provide top-notch talent development solutions. For help starting a virtual mentoring program in your organization, request a demo today.
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