With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on corporate businesses globally, employees, and the programs designed to support them, are shifting dramatically the way they work. In such a crazed staffing environment, it might seem audacious to suggest employee mentoring programs should be retained at all. But the reality is, a mentoring initiative is more critical for maintaining business continuity than ever.
Before COVID-19 usurped the way we live and work, 2020 was going to be the year of the mentoring program. Corporations globally, and even mid-sized businesses, had elevated mentoring from the “nice to have” bucket to a “must-have” imperative.
These programs had proven their worth on a number of fronts. They worked in engaging employees with the business. They created enhanced talent pools for succession planning. They aided employee retention efforts. And they bolstered a company’s attractiveness and relevance to prospective employees.
Now, with the business world upended, it’s time to re-evaluate just how an employee mentoring program can be modified and leveraged to help your enterprise thrive in these unprecedented times. The good news is, most mentoring models can be shifted to an e-mentoring, or electronic mentoring format.
Here’s are some tips how:
1. Make sure participants stick to their mentoring routine
With all that’s going on, it’s easy to let the mentoring routine lapse. Don’t let it. There is power and comfort in sticking to this routine. First and foremost, it’s a terrific way to monitor the mentee to make sure they are focusing on tasks that are business-critical right now.
No doubt, one-on-one in-person mentoring sessions have been suspended. Make sure you have set-up an effective way to stay connected to one another, preferably by video conference, but a regularly scheduled phone conversation will work as well.
You might have to change your mentoring calendar, but make sure you agree to the new schedule and maintain it.
Here’s a new bullet to add to your mentoring checklist. Have the mentee chart their work progress now that they are working from home, with a reduced staff, etc. Use this chart to identify where the challenges lie in this uprooted work environment and where alterations should be made.
Tip: Some of our mentors report increasing the number of “check-in” appointments with mentees has proven fruitful and necessary.
2. Have mentors mitigate feelings of business uncertainty
Few of us have ever faced a business crisis as devastating as this pandemic, but most likely, the mentors in your program have weathered some tough conditions in the past. Your mentees probably haven’t. This is the time to have mentors assure their mentees that marketplace disruptions, like this one, can and will occur. And while there are no guarantees, given the severity of this occurrence, how we perform now, as a professional team, will define how we come through this as a business at the other end.
For the mentor, this calls for a degree of candor and empathy. It’s time to help the mentee adapt to the changes to their workflow, make sure they have shuffled their priorities correctly, and engage them in the steps they should be taking to help the business successfully navigate the new waters.
Tip: Now is the time to be more empathetic than usual. Don’t dismiss a mentee’s fears or concerns. Expect to and be open to hearing about your mentee’s life challenges as well as their business ones. This is a terrific way to maintain engagement in an uncertain time where the younger employee may feel less grounded.
3. Keep the goals of the mentoring program in the forefront
Despite these highly unusual working circumstances, now is no time to take your eyes off the prize. Make sure the goals of the mentoring program stay front and center. Take the time to understand what changes may be happening at the company and how your goals can be modified to maintain momentum. However, don’t relax the monitoring of program goals or the mentee’s professional progress. Assure the mentee that the work they’re doing now is being assessed from the point of view that the company will emerge and that new leaders will be needed to leverage the new opportunities after the pandemic passes.
Crisis management is one of the best skills a mentee (and mentor) will come out of this experience with. Make sure you are consciously promoting critical thinking tactics and innovative thinking that will further the viability of the business during this crisis.
Tip: Explain to the mentee just why the company continues to support the mentoring program and how they are relying on the mentee to complete the program so that we’ll all be well-positioned to move forward in the post-Coronavirus market.
2020 continues to be a pivotal year for mentoring. Times of crisis are great proving grounds for training the next generation of leaders. Let this challenge show just how well a mentoring program works as a unique and powerful employee development business tool.