Benefits of Mentoring 

5 Ways Virtual Mentoring Supports Remote Teams

With the global pandemic Covid-19 forcing businesses across the globe to operate remotely, teams are displaced and everyone is adapting to a new way of working.

With teams now working in either remote, hybrid or in-office models, it’s important to understand the best ways to manage these new ways of working.

With the world in such disruption, it’s easy to let office associated activities fall by the wayside. Company events and socials, coffee machine chat, team goal setting, programs and training – they all feel harder to maintain with everybody at home. However, it’s important to try and keep up a degree of normality and routine, even if that means coming up with new processes.

Virtual mentoring offers an highly effective solution under the current circumstances, helping foster a culture of open communication, knowledge sharing, generous leadership, and above all, human connection – which we know we all need to prioritise right now.

How can virtual mentoring support remote teams?

1. Transitional Mentoring

Mentoring is frequently used in organisations during any time of change, transition or transformation. Whether it’s new management or systems, a structural overhaul or re-distribution, mentoring can help to re-establish a culture of community across the organisation in a short period of time.

Covid-19 is likely one of biggest ‘transitional periods’ businesses have ever faced, and so having a company culture where mentoring is the norm is more important than ever. Everyone will be dealing with this situation in different ways, and experiencing different challenges depending on their situation. Establishing a virtual mentoring program now will allow people to reach out to mentors within their organisation who can guide, support and advise them through those relevant challenges.

For organisations worrying that their mentoring programs will fall apart with everybody out of office, now is the time to re-engage your participants and communicate the benefits of mentoring again within the context of the global pandemic. We have some tips for promoting mentoring programs in our guide:

How To Start A Mentoring Program: A Step By Step Guide

It’s also important to establish and enable virtual mentoring. Luckily, everyone is getting into the habit of video meetings and conference calls, so mentoring sessions shouldn’t be any different. Using a mentoring software will make the process of managing and tracking relationships easier, which is essential while we’re all absent from the office.

2. On-boarding / Induction Mentoring

It’s a very strange time to start a new job, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Many people will be starting new positions from their dining table over the coming weeks and months, and so effective induction processes have never been more crucial.

Starting a new job can be daunting on a regular basis, let alone when you’re not going to meet any of your new colleagues face to face, or step foot in your new office, for potentially months.

Mentoring can be extremely valuable in these circumstances. By pairing a new joiner with a mentor on their first day, they have somebody who can show them the ropes in a friendly, relatable and patient way. In fact, providing multiple mentors so they have the option to reach out to different people for different queries will be even more valuable.

A go-to person to support them in their role, somebody else to induct them into company culture etc. This will also increase their number of initial connections within the business, which is necessary seeing as they won’t be socialising face to face with everyone in the office for a while.

You can read more about why mentoring is important here.

3. Management Mentoring

Managers will be under considerable strain at this time. Not only are they adapting their own routine, but are also responsible for their team’s output, productivity, and general wellbeing. It requires an increased level of communication, transparency and dedication. Many managers will be feeling overwhelmed and potentially out of their depth, and so it’s a critical time to ensure they have somebody to support and advise them, in the form of a mentor.

Naturally, a lot of managers’ time at the moment will be spent on video calls with their team, and so adding more virtual meetings to their routine for the sake of it is not productive. Instead, taking the time to identify individual managers’ current challenges will help to create mentoring relationships that are truly beneficial, as opposed to a burden.

Mentoring can also work to transform managers into inspiring leaders, developing leadership skills such as communication, giving feedback, delegation and motivation. These kinds of skills are more valuable now than ever. With uncertainty and transition taking place, strong leaders will make a huge difference in team morale and productivity.

Research has shown that when managers are stressed or anxious, it filters down and impacts everybody in the team. The fact that mentoring increases self-awareness can consequently help managers mitigate this knock-on effect.

📖 Find out more about how mentoring makes great managers here 📖

4. Parental Mentoring

Many organisations run maternity and paternity mentoring programs, for new parents to feel supported in their transition back to work after having a child. With parents now working from home whilst simultaneously caring for their children and trying to homeschool them, this is a crucial time to offer support.

Offering parents mentors during this period will firstly show that the business acknowledges and empathises with their position, as well as having a positive effect on mental health, job satisfaction and happiness.

As many people will fit into this category, it may be a good idea to establish group, peer or team mentoring. This is where you have multiple people – mentors and mentees – sharing knowledge, learning together, and holding each other accountable. It essentially creates a formal support system, which will be highly beneficial for your team’s progress (and sanity) during this time. You can read more about different types of mentoring here.

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5. Stress Management Mentoring

Finally, mentoring can be highly impactful when it comes to stress management. Many people will be experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety at work right now. Whether it’s through fear of being let go, having too much or not enough to do, managing time and productivity, not to mention the fact that this virus has turned the world upside down – which alone is plenty cause for stress.

At its core, mentoring is about human connection. It’s about recognising and utilising someone else’s experience and skills, sharing knowledge and building relationships. That’s why research has also shown its positive effects on mental health. Mental Health Foundation lists mentoring in the workplace as a method of supporting feelings of isolation and anxieties about the future. Similarly, Harvard Business Review conducted a study researching the positive effects of mentoring, and found that people who served as mentors experienced lower levels of anxiety, and described their job as more meaningful, than those who did not mentor.

With this in mind, now is a crucial time to implement a culture of virtual mentoring in your organisation, to ensure people feel connected and supported.

These are uncharted waters for all of us. Let us continue to follow government guidelines, look after our people and customers, and above all, practice kindness

Advice for Mentees 

How to Run a Productive Mentoring Session

Mentoring sessions are the meetings between mentor and mentee, where the advice, knowledge sharing, and problem solving all takes place.

These sessions may only take place every month or so, and there’s a lot to discuss. It’s therefore important for mentoring sessions to follow a structure, to ensure they stay productive and valuable for both parties.

A mentoring relationship is a two-way process. While a good mentee is commonly expected to drive the session, it’s important for both people to be aligned on how the meetings are structured. It’s easy to pass the time of mentoring sessions talking about different issues and topics, sharing experiences, and generally getting to know one another better. However, the purpose of mentoring is to facilitate someone’s growth and see their progress. By structuring mentoring sessions, both mentor and mentee are more likely to follow up on actions, feel comfortable raising any issues, and keep the conversation focused!

Guider how it works bannerHow do you structure a mentoring session?

Every mentoring relationship is different, but there will typically be goals set at the beginning that the mentee wants to achieve. The mentoring will be helping them get to where they want to be, while also developing skills such as self-awareness, confidence, and good communication.

In each mentoring session, it’s important that the discussions, challenges, and solutions raised are all contributing to the mentee’s overall goals, to ensure progress is being made. There are simple things both mentor and mentee can do before, during and after they meet to ensure a productive mentoring session.

The day before a mentoring session:

  • Mentee sends over a session agenda including their desired discussion areas, outline of current challenges, key progress updates, and any leftover actions from the last session.
  • If relevant, the mentor can add any topics or points to the agenda and send it back, so that everyone is aware of the key focuses beforehand.

This helps with preparation, prioritisation, and managing expectations. For example, if a mentor sees on the agenda that their mentee has a new challenge since they last met, the mentor can think about it and come ready with ideas, rather than it being raised during the session when there’s already a lot to discuss.

During the mentoring session:

  1. Check in – while the aim of structuring a session is to be as productive as possible, mentoring is ultimately about human connection, so it’s good to allow a bit of time to catch up informally at the beginning of a session! Everyone will feel more comfortable.
  2. Decide on a main focus – based on the discussion areas and challenges the mentee featured on their agenda, both parties can decide on a main focus for the session. This could be outcome based, such as coming up with a plan, or exploration based, such as considering a new approach or reviewing something that hasn’t worked.
  3. Review actions from last session – before the discussion of any new topics, the mentoring pair should review any actions or ‘homework’ from the last session. Note: the mentor should not ‘tell off’ their mentee if they didn’t do something they said they would; mentoring is not a teacher / student or parent / child relationship dynamic. Rather, it should be an open and proactive discussion where they can mutually explore why an action was not completed, and decide together whether it’s still a valuable action. This is also a good time to update each other on any progress, such as: “I spoke with my friend Kate in Business Development and she’d be happy to go for a coffee with you, I think you’ll gain a lot from her experience coming from retail like you”.
  4. Explore challenges – based on the agenda, the pair can then explore the challenges the mentee is currently facing. At this point, the mentor can ensure the conversation is proactive and positive, with a focus on learning as opposed to failure or weakness. It’s important both parties keep in mind the agreed main focus of the session, and link any challenges back to it where possible to stay on track.
  5. Create a plan – off the back of the challenge discussion, it’s likely they’ll have begun to explore a number of solutions. Mentoring sessions can easily turn into hour long brainstorming without following a structure, so in order to be productive, they can then establish a plan that tackles the discussed challenges.
  6. Reflect on progress – near the end of the mentoring session, it’s important to reflect on the progress the mentee has made. This could be through the discussion of key learnings, celebrating wins, and feedback.
  7. Actions for next session – before the session concludes, an actions list should be created of things to do before the next session, which align with the mentee’s goals. The act of doing this makes both mentee and mentor accountable.
  8. Book next session – in order to maintain momentum, it’s always good to book in your next session at the end!

Naturally, every mentoring session will vary, and that’s not a bad thing! But having a structure in place will increase the likelihood of making progress, as well as knowing there’s always a dedicated opportunity to raise certain things.

After the mentoring session:

  • Mentee sends a follow up with the key takeaways from the session, the list of actions, and the details of the next session.
  • Mentor can respond with any relevant information or links to resources that were discussed in the session that may help the mentee.

It’s always good to follow up when the session is still fresh in mind, to avoid dropping the ball on anything that was agreed to.

And that’s how to run a productive mentoring session! Good luck.

Find out more about making mentoring work for you in our other resources: 

How to Find a Great Mentor

15 Essential Mentoring Skills

How to Be a Good Mentor

Run a Successful Intro Session

Get the Most Out of Your Mentoring Relationship

How to Be a Good Mentee