Helping HR and talent development leaders succeed through active engagement with their peers is a not-so-guilty pleasure for me as MentorcliQ’s Mentoring Community Director. That extends to helping leaders re-envision their mentoring programs for a hybrid-remote working environment. The dramatic shift to hybrid and remote work has, unsurprisingly, resulted in an uptick in mentoring community chatter around how to navigate this structural change effectively. MentorcliQ has been remote-first as a company almost since it was founded, and our approach to mentoring as a provider has always focused on mentoring virtually.
With that in mind, we have some high-impact tips and strategies you can use if you find the shift to remote mentoring has been challenging for you and your people. In case you need a little extra advice to share, we have a Virtual Mentoring guide you can download that gives additional insight and pointers on the topic.
What Is Remote Mentoring?
A remote mentoring structure exists when an organization’s structured mentoring programs are structured in a way that allow all participants to engage in the program from anywhere. This means that if your organization provides authentic remote mentoring, participants can do all of the following without ever entering a physical office space:
- Enroll in the mentoring program
- Get matched or paired with a mentor/mentee
- Schedule and engage in meetings or mentoring sessions
- Access professional development content
- Respond to feedback surveys on the mentoring engagement
Are all of those items possible within your existing mentoring format? If not, your program may only be partially set up for catering to remote mentorship. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course. It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your mentoring program.
However, if what you want is a mentoring program structure that’s fully flexible for both remote, hybrid, and in-person employees, the best way to do that is to make it remote-centric. The reasoning for that is simple: a remote-centric mentoring format allows participants to engage within every type of working environment, be it remote, hybrid, or in-person.
How to Mentor in a Remote Workplace
Adapting to remote mentoring requires more than just an understanding of technology. It involves a shift in matching strategy and technology, communication styles, scheduling flexibility, and an emphasis on setting clear goals and expectations. Establishing a remote-centric enrollment and matching structure, leveraging video conferencing tools for face-to-face interactions, and creating a virtual space for informal catch-ups can significantly enhance the remote mentoring experience.
Effectively getting to that point requires a birds-eye view. To start that process, we recommend the following steps:
- Assess what’s changed
- Communicate with your participants
- Ask participants for feedback
- Leverage technology to increase employee connections
- If your employees are not mentoring, get started!
Assess what’s changed
If you have an existing mentoring program, take a look at what may have changed. In terms of the participating employees, their day-to-day patterns may have been disrupted, but in terms of technology, the answer might be that not much has changed, and no major modifications are actually needed.
This tends to be especially true for organizations that have a large, geographically distributed workforce. Those organizations already have a significant amount of remote mentoring.
More than 92% of all MentorcliQ customer mentoring relationships were already noted as primarily virtual before COVID-19 made the virtual option the only possibility. In the years since the pandemic ended, hybrid work has become the norm. As Gallup noted in late 2023, The Future of the Office Has Arrived: It’s Hybrid.
In any case, the primary challenge is engagement and commitment, and having a technology platform with tools to support engagement is a key benefit.
Communicate with your participants
Since engagement and commitment are known challenges, communicate with your mentoring community using the admin tools available to make it easy to keep track of and target specific groups with the mentoring program as necessary.
Ensure they know what technology is available, how it can be used, and what resources are at their disposal (consider reaching out to your Client Partner or Success Coach to get a quick refresher!). Encourage them to continue with the relationships even though slight modifications may be necessary (i.e., their mentor/mentee may need to adjust what time of day they prefer to meet because they have kids at home, etc.).
In short, make sure that your mentoring population feels thought of and supported.
Ask participants for feedback
People are naturally creative, so finding out how individuals are making mentoring work especially well for them and potentially revising how the company is supporting them will help your program evolve during these times of change.
As a program admin, you can easily access each program’s data to determine the most active and engaged mentors/mentees. Connecting with these groups can provide special insight into unique best practices within your employee population. Sharing these insights with other participants will help them feel more connected to the program and to the organization. This will also open up space for people to check in so you can see if there are any unaddressed needs.
Additionally, consider getting more proactive with sharing GOOD news and outcomes from the program (i.e., sharing high marks and positive anecdotal participant feedback results from a mid-cycle satisfaction survey — anonymized, of course :).
Leverage technology to increase employee connections
By definition, virtual mentoring requires technology, and so leveraging technology is a key part of any successful virtual mentoring strategy. The great news is that if you’re a MentorcliQ customer, you’ve already made a fantastic investment in a platform that supports virtual mentoring by design. The key is to really make the technology work for your employees.
At a minimum level, this should include reminding/educating your employees about what tools already exist within MentorcliQ to help keep them engaged and on-track. This can be accomplished through a custom communication within the admin tools, or even through a short webinar that you may want to host and make available to all participants.
And don’t forget, this could be an excellent time to EXPAND inclusion to other employees who may now be interested in joining the program! Below are some key elements that all participants should know about MentorcliQ:
- Virtual By Design
MentorcliQ is available on any device and also via native mobile apps (if you have that enabled), so employees can engage easily while working remotely. Have you seen the MentorcliQ App? Check it out >>
- Global Ready
MentorcliQ is global-ready, secure, GDPR privacy compliant, and available in multiple languages if needed for your global employees.
- On-Demand Support
Automated program support, training resources, and advice for your participants and your program admins.
MentorcliQ is virtual by design and offers all of these features – reach out to your client partner or contact us to learn more.
Is Virtual Mentoring as Effective as In-Person Mentoring?
Absolutely! Virtual mentoring is as effective as in-person mentoring, and in most cases, virtual mentoring is the primary type of mentoring offered by organizations because their employees are spread out in different offices and/or around the globe. But don’t just take my word for it:
Harvard Business Review conducted a study with The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and found that virtual mentoring encourages people to connect with experts across multiple domains, which ultimately helps people broaden their network, become more innovative, and feel more connected to their organization.
What’s different about virtual mentoring?
Every aspect of the mentoring relationship, from goal setting to meeting those goals, is the same for virtual mentoring as for traditional in-person/face-to-face mentoring. The only difference is HOW you meet. Remember, the important thing is that people are actually connecting, so MentorcliQ recommends that mentors/mentees agree on their preferred method to meet and remain flexible rather than try to enforce a one-size-fits-all approach.
MentorcliQ Expert Recommendations:
- More quick touchpoints with mobile chat:
Encourage your participants to touch base more frequently and more informally using online chat. This helps them maintain connection and offers a way to get timely advice.
- Use video chat for scheduled meetups
Meet with video calls instead of just voice or email for a more personal approach. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, a picture is worth 1,000 words, and a smile from your mentor or mentee is worth a million!
What Are the Best Program Types for Remote Mentoring?
In any business cycle, employees must transfer knowledge, build skills, and strengthen their internal professional community for the business to succeed. Mentoring is ideal for supporting each of these areas and will help your employees navigate the transitions within the organization.
With significant business challenges and a newly remote workforce, special mentoring program formats and areas of focus can help employees and the business adapt. While specific program structure is contextual and specific to the organizational changes taking place, here are some program ideas to consider:
- Open Programs
An Open Program is often less structured and has the benefit of being more INCLUSIVE since it is designed to be an open enrollment format and can help people feel connected to their peers and organization. This is especially true as teams are transitioning to remote work.
- One-to-One Programs
Connecting for one-to-one mentoring is always effective for virtual relationships and allows employees to get more personal with their individual developmental needs.
- Employee Resource Groups
Creating community/affinity groups for mentoring around key elements like employees with young kids, related in-home hobbies, or other non-work related themes can UP the fun and the engagement while employees are seeking remote connection.
- Quick Connections
Sometimes, all that’s needed is needed is a quick chat or a flash/micro-mentoring session to get inspired and stay on track. This is often limited to 1-3 meetings and occurs over a short period.
That’s just the shortlist. Almost any type of program will work within a remote mentoring framework. As long as you have planned around flexible enrollment, matching, engagement, and feedback that’s not tied to location, all program types can be managed remotely.
Adjusting to Corporate-Level Changes in Working Arrangements
The push-and-pull of return-to-work will likely extend for years until the dust settles. As an HR and talent development leader, that puts you in the middle trying to navigate what works best for everyone.
First, take the time to understand what changes may be happening at your company and then evaluate your current mentoring strategy through the lens of those changes. Give yourself the space to make revisions over time. Remembering to be thoughtful about the bigger picture of your organization and your employees’ needs is helpful as you also work to create immediate benefits for the shorter term.
Some ideas that MentorcliQ experts can explore with you:
- Launch a new program to support remote employees: Open Program, Community/Affinity Groups, and Quick Connections.
- Extending the timeline of your current program can maintain a sense of normalcy and continuity as you make plans for new offerings or cycles.
- Revisit milestones, goals scheduled communications, and any customized program-specific resources you may have added to make sure they are still in line with what your employees need right now.
- Flexibility is key. Some changes may be an individual conversation between the mentoring pairs. You should prompt the pairs to discuss and reevaluate their focus areas, goals, and milestones.
The beautiful thing is that we humans are adaptable, creative, and can deal with whatever life throws at us, especially when we work as a team.
Advice for Mentors and Mentees in Remote Mentoring Relationships
We created these Virtual Mentoring Tips For Participants. You can share these 5 ways to maintain the human connection and mentoring momentum while mentoring virtually with your participants.
- Keep Mentoring
- Get Face Time
- Keep It Real
- Allow Messiness
- Show You Care
If you want to discuss the next steps to enhance virtual mentoring for your employees, or if you have specific program structure questions, please reach out to your client partner or success coach and they can help right away.
Ready to get started with your mentoring initiative?
Connect with MentorcliQ to see how mentoring programs powered by mentoring software and our framework can impact and improve your employees’ virtual mentoring experience.