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The Importance of Virtual Mentorships in the Hybrid Workplace

Annie Erling Gofus - Jun 21 2022
Published in: Global Workforce
The fundamental components of effective mentoring can also be achieved in a virtual environment

Managers and leaders must master virtual mentoring due to the transition to hybrid and remote work. Over four decades, researchers have amassed a wealth of evidence to suggest that providing employees with access to constructive mentoring connections has numerous personal and professional advantages. Retention and development of new employees are enhanced when mentoring is a visible component of company culture. How can managers adjust their approach to establishing and nurturing these ties when potential mentees are not physically present?

Many people believe that physical proximity is required in developmental relationships. However, mentoring is defined more by what it accomplishes than by how it is completed. The fundamental components of developmental progress that may be applied to virtual mentoring are commitment, trust, relationship quality, and mentor competence.

Virtual mentoring has several advantages for workers in a remote or hybrid environment. According to recent studies, virtual mentorships may be more equitable. By reducing all parties to a voice and screen of equal size in video-based conversations, visual status cues indicating organizational status and physical stature are eliminated.

Virtual engagement may reduce anxiety about in-person encounters. Online mentorship also eliminates the problems associated with shared space and distance since online meeting options provide greater flexibility in mentor/mentee scheduling and location.

The ability to record and transcribe mentoring sessions may help mentorship partners reference and reflect on a previous discussion, allowing them to share it so others can learn. Finally, the availability of translation applications and closed captioning on most virtual platforms now extends a mentor's impact to a global audience of potential mentees, including those with impairments.

Virtual mentoring does have some potential obstacles. Working in a face-to-face office environment creates more mentor-of-the-moment opportunities in chance hallway interactions or informal drop-by chats. Because the full range of nonverbal signals and vocal intonation may be missing, virtual mentoring might need more work to develop trust and rapport in the relationship. Virtual mentorship, like many internet interactions, may suffer from email overload and computer fatigue. 

Unfortunately, there is a lack of formal education and training on the art and science of effective virtual mentoring. The prevalence of virtual mentorship in the pre-pandemic period was low, and only about 30% of businesses offered training on how to use it effectively. Fortunately, there are strategies that leaders can utilize to achieve their objectives.

Strategies to Create Great Digital Mentorships

Mentorship is an effective tool for connecting personal aspirations and principles to one's profession, allowing people to blend the two in order to achieve more significant results. Despite greater efforts by businesses, nearly 85% of workers worldwide are still not engaged or actively disengaged at work, according to Gallup. And a University of Miami study found that 65% of young people reported increased loneliness since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 80% reported “significant depressive symptoms.”

Mentoring can help us remain resilient and connected in the face of these difficulties. Different employers may have different ideas when it comes to separating their personal and professional lives, and the mentor and mentee will ultimately decide the connection. Recognizing how our personal and professional lives are interwoven provides a strong foundation for any mentoring relationship.

Because some organizations have implemented virtually accessible mentorships, early and mid-career personnel should look for them. Before Covid-19, there were e-mentoring platforms that provided virtual mentoring. However, due to the pandemic, they became more relevant to people.

During the Covid-19 era, a large number of individuals are seeking potential mentors on LinkedIn. In January, activity on LinkedIn tends to increase as individuals prepare for their professional goals for the new year. LinkedIn searches for mentees and mentors more than doubled in the first half of January 2022, according to the company. According to data compiled by LinkedIn, one-in-five respondents said they currently had a mentoring relationship.

Decades of research have identified strong indicators of what works in mentorships. Researchers David Megginson and David Clutterbuck, cofounders of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, found two components for effective mentoring: building rapport and creating clarity of purpose.

Mentoring pairs should set and check in on objectives and establish a public or semi-public venue to discuss progress. A culture of celebration may be promoted by posting videos and photographs of victories and participating in public or private online forums. Graphics, music, and videos can mark milestones. 

It is critical for businesses to explain why mentoring is necessary and why it is important for the company. Is there enough space for employees to chat about career goals, as well as practice and improve their skills? When a mentorship program's overall objectives are tied to a business's core values in virtual mentoring, it may be easier to maintain a shared corporate culture even if individuals are not in the same physical location.

Employee retention and contentment are aided by mentorship and sponsorship. Mentoring is particularly beneficial for individuals of color and women, both of whom are more likely than others to see mentorship as crucial to their professional development. Mentorship promotes employee learning and advancement on the retention side. 

On the recruiting side, involvement in undergraduate mentorship creates talent pipelines and opens doors to students who are typically excluded from standard recruiting, such as community college students. Hiring mistakes and poor employee support may be costly in any situation, but the stakes are even higher today. Mentoring helps us avoid both.