Advice for Businesses

Virtual Mentoring: How to Make it Work

Virtual mentoring is becoming more commonplace in our ever-changing modern world. But is it really the same? And how can businesses make it work?

The good answer is that virtual mentoring can be even more effective than face to face mentoring under certain circumstances. With the ease of mentoring software platforms and the majority of the population now adjusted to video calling, virtual mentoring is more than just a temporary alternative.

What is virtual mentoring?

Virtual mentoring is when a mentoring session takes place not in person, but over a phone or video call.

During the global pandemic Covid-19, video calls, meetings, and training have become the only option, and so there’s no reason mentoring shouldn’t be the same. Mentoring is a highly effective way of supporting remote teams in this time, creating community and tackling stress and isolation.

Virtual mentoring can be just as impactful, as long as it’s well planned, managed, and both the mentor and mentee are on the same page.

Benefits of virtual mentoring

In the workplace, mentoring is a great way to build a learning culture and share knowledge, and the benefits of mentoring are well proven. Now, not only is virtual mentoring a good alternative from face to face mentoring while more people work from home or in hybrid roles but it also has many benefits of its own:

  • Unrestricted by location

The beauty of virtual mentoring is that location is no longer a factor. In many formal workplace mentoring programs, mentors and mentees are likely to be in the same office or city, so they can meet in person. However, with many offices still closed and remote working becoming more popular, virtual mentoring offers more opportunity for relationships to form that never would have in an office.

  • Multiple mentors

Due to the flexibility that virtual mentoring offers, individuals can easily have multiple mentors. There’s less admin involved than if they were on a formal mentoring program in their office, or if they were reaching out to meet people in their network.

  • More time efficient

Let’s face it, jumping on a call for 30 minutes from home is far more time effective than meeting a mentor for coffee in the working day. Virtual mentoring sessions can happen from anywhere, and so are easier to schedule.

  • Less social and behavioural pressure

For whatever reason – be it nerves, anxiety, or low self-esteem – meeting face to face with a mentor or mentee can be difficult for some. The removal of social pressure means virtual mentoring can actually be a far more comfortable alternative, allowing people to focus on what’s being said rather than on things like body language and eye contact.

  • Diversity and Inclusion

Due to all of the reasons detailed above, virtual mentoring can effectively support with diversity and inclusion initiatives in organisations. This is due to the fact that more people can be involved with the program, as capacity and location are no longer factors. And particularly more people from diverse locations and backgrounds.

  • Quick set up

Unlike large mentoring programs within organisations, which usually require vast spreadsheets and big meetings, virtual mentoring is much quicker to get up and running. But more on that in the next section…

a woman speaking on video call

How to run virtual mentoring in the workplace

Starting a mentoring program in your organisation can take a lot of time. Program managers must generate enough interest, match mentors with mentees, check in on progress, and try to somehow measure success.

The difficulty with many mentoring program is that they are hard to track, and relationships can tail off without the right support. This is why it’s best to use a mentoring software, such as Guider, to manage your program. Mentors and mentees are matched using a smart algorithm (reducing subconscious human bias), all mentoring activity is tracked, and everything is easily managed in one place.

We talk more about this in our guide: How To Start A Mentoring Program.

Starting a virtual mentoring program comes with its own challenges: it’s more difficult to get participants on board without the office environment. The program can’t be promoted on posters around the offices or during ‘water cooler’ chat, but relies solely on digital promotion.

  • Step 1: Program managers should set a promotion strategy before launching, deciding where and how they will get the word out. Newsletter campaigns, internal meetings and events are all good places to start. It’s also valuable to get a well-respected stakeholder on board who can promote the virtual mentoring program and act as an ambassador.
  • Step 2: For virtual mentoring programs, mentoring software is almost essential. Participants can join the platform, make a profile and meet their new mentor, with no assistance or additional work from the program manager. Check out this guide to find out how mentoring software works.
  • Step 3: Once the program is up and running, the mentoring platform will track how frequently sessions are taking place as well as gather feedback from the participants. Making virtual mentoring easy to implement and manage.

But of course, that’s not to say it’s a perfect solution. Virtual mentoring still has it’s downsides and challenges, but it’s our job at Guider to know how to overcome them…

Challenges of virtual mentoring (and how to overcome them)

Naturally, many of the challenges that exist in normal mentoring programs and relationships still exist, even when they go virtual. Not to mention some additional digital specific obstacles. Here’s how to prepare and make it work:

  • More difficult to form a connection

As good as modern technology is, meeting someone over a computer screen is not the same as meeting someone in person. For the opposite reasons that virtual mentoring might be a positive to some people’s personalities, it could also be negative to others. For those who value body language in getting to know somebody, they may struggle or take longer.

How to make it work: Encourage mentoring sessions to be on video calls rather than voice calls as much as possible. Some people prefer to have their camera off on large work meetings, which is completely understandable. However, mentoring is all about human connection, and so being able to see each other is a huge part of that. As well as this, you can promote icebreaker games and social time in order to help your mentors and mentees get to know each other faster. Check in with the cohort after their first couple of sessions to get a sense of whether or not the participants feel comfortable or whether they’re struggling.

  • Feelings of isolation and lack of community

This is particularly relevant during current social distancing measures. Many mentoring programs have a sense of community around them – whether they’re for a specific group or impact area such as women in leadership, or they utilise other types of mentoring such as group or peer mentoring. How do you maintain this feeling of community on a virtual mentoring program.

How to make it work: When launching the program, schedule a webinar for the participants. You could split this into mentees and mentors or do a big group. This will encourage a sense of community and make participants feel like they’re a part of something. Similarly, schedule milestone virtual events such as the halfway point of the program to bring everyone together again. Celebrating achievements or progress as a group can also instil a feeling of community on the program.

  • When the chemistry just isn’t there…

This problem is not unique to virtual mentoring. Sometimes, a mentor and mentee just don’t hit it off. This can be amplified in a remote set up, as there’s something about awkward silences that just make them that bit worse over video call.

How to make it work: A mentoring pair should be encouraged to reflect on why they feel the chemistry is missing, as it’s a good exercise in self-awareness. However, they should not be forced to continue the sessions if they don’t feel the fit is right. At this point, they should be open and honest, and try to part on good terms. The benefit of doing this virtually, is that it’s far less uncomfortable than doing it face to face.

  • Technical difficulties

One of the most risky things about virtual mentoring sessions is the possibility of technical difficulties. A mentor freezing mid-advice or a mentee getting cut off while discussing something difficult can really jolt the flow and frustrate both parties.

How to make it work: If prone to glitchy WiFi or temperamental computers, mentoring pairs should do everything they can to stabilise their connection before the session. As well as this, they should devise back up plans should one of their connections worsen, such as taking it on to mobile or resorting to a good old fashioned phone call. This will help get back on track quickly and alleviate too much disruption to the conversation.

📖 Read How Mentoring Supports Remote Teams 📖

Virtual mentoring platform

Guider is a virtual mentoring platform, helping organisations build supportive learning cultures while their teams work from home. This makes mentoring accessible to everyone, regardless of location, helping to break down silos across the business.

From set up, mentor and mentee matching, integrated video chat, through to tracking and reporting, Guider manages the full virtual mentoring process.‍

How do I implement virtual mentoring

Mentoring is hugely effective in connecting people across businesses, encouraging personal development, developing leaders, and building community.

If you’re looking to implement virtual mentoring in your organisation, or just have questions for us we’d be more than happy to help!

Reach out by booking a demo.

Skills Development

How Failure Leads to Success

When we fail, why should we feel embarrassed about it? Why do we feel this overwhelming sense of regret and shame when we are faced with failure?

While most people view it as a step backward, it is actually a big step forward. Failure helps us learn and progress, and without it life would be rather stagnant. This article will focus on how failure actually leads to success…

How Did We Initially Learn About Failure?

From a young age, we are taught that failing is bad, and is something to fear. We may have felt embarrassed from raising our hands in school and getting the answer wrong, performing poorly on an assignment, or scoring below the passing grade on an exam. We are taught to avoid that feeling at all costs.

Developmental psychologists have conducted research on early childhood experiences of failure and what its effects are on adults’ levels of confidence. Psychologists have found that memories of failure that seem so meaningless now, could have negatively impacted the way we think and act. A student who gets embarrassed speaking in front of a classroom full of their peers may avoid public speaking for years until the fear is confronted.

We often find students living in educational environments where mistakes are forbidden. In such high-stress environments, mistakes are bound to happen! What these students do not know, is that failure is life’s greatest teacher. It is what shapes us to become the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

Find our more about the benefits of embedding mentoring in learning and development with Guider

Changing the Way We View Failure

Through a three-step process of Explore, Embrace and Excel, we can change the way we view failure from something deterring to something encouraging.

1. Explore:

Get outside of your comfort zone, venture the world as it is and live as boldly as you feel!

2. Embrace:

If you left your comfort zone and were faced with failure, embrace it knowing that it will be a valuable lesson in the future.

3. Excel:

Find the positive take-aways from your personal experiences of failure, and utilize them to fuel success.

Coping With Failure

First, acknowledge that failure is by no means the end of the world. Realize that failure is temporary, and that something good is happening here. It is also comforting to remember that your persistence and dedication to your goals will eventually be rewarded with success.

Every time you fail, you are learning, and you are growing. Recognizing this gets easier with repetition and practicing positive self-talk.

Practicing Routine Failing

Forbes has described “routine failing” to be something very beneficial when coping with failure. Routine failing means you are actively doing something to move forward and get outside of your comfort zone. When we remain still, we strictly limit ourselves in what we can achieve.

Routine failing means taking daily risks, like a task you are unsure if you can handle, ignoring negative thoughts and comments from yourself and others, and leaping into the unknown. Instead of overthinking for the purpose of avoiding failure, put that attentive energy into listening to your gut instinct.

Failure Runs in Every River

When we look up to someone as a role model or mentor, we picture them as being flawless. Our biggest role models and mentors had to face failure many times in order to get to where they are now. Discussing failure with a mentor helps to normalize the idea of failure, understanding that it is something experienced universally rather than individually.

Here is a great article on some famous individuals who refused to let failure overpower their drive for success!

Meet Resilience, Your New Best Friend

Resilience is what enables you to bounce back from a failure and keep going. There will always be certain moments in life where you feel as if you were knocked down, but resilience is there to empower you to stand back up.

Think about your failure and why you wanted to take that risk in the first place. Is this a job you had always dreamed of having? Remember what it felt like to get that job offer, despite if you felt unqualified applying.

No matter what the failure was, having resilience guarantees you learn the lesson and apply it to your future. Resilient people can be fearless and feel good about themselves even when they are not at their best. Their confidence is fuelled by their determination and, most importantly, their past failures.

Diversity and Inclusion

5 Ways to Champion Diversity and Inclusion in Remote Teams

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are crucial aspects of today’s workplace, but the sudden shift towards remote operations has, unfortunately, put these issues on the back burner.

Now that the UK government is recommending that businesses continue remote work for the foreseeable future, it’s high time that businesses revisit their operations to ensure that their remote workforce is properly taken care of.

To that end, below are a few practices to ensure diversity and inclusion remains a priority within remote teams.

Create an actionable roadmap

Businesses who say they champion diversity and inclusivity need to tailor their actions to suit. Provide a concrete plan that demonstrates how you aim to tackle diversity and inclusion amidst this new normal.

A crucial start point is admitting the work to be done to become a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. Over the summer of 2020, many businesses held their hands up and acknowledged they had not done enough to achieve diversity, and redeclared their plans on a public forum. This needs to happen so businesses can be made accountable. In every facet of an organisation, management should be creating D&I plans and roadmaps that will lead to the overall changes the business is aiming for including inclusive hiring practices and creating pathways into leadership that are accessible to all.

Digiday maintains that companies need to start by championing diversity during the recruitment process by making onboarding practices as inclusive as possible. The best way to do this is through gathering feedback from current employees, as they can help you see how these processes can be improved.

We discuss revisiting hiring processes to make them more inclusive in this article.

Don’t forget about freelancers

Depending on the nature of your work, your team might include a few freelancers. This setup is more common than you think, as it can be seen in various businesses from creative agencies to logistics companies.

While not full-time, freelancers are just as vital to your company in order to ensure your regular staff don’t get overwhelmed. This means you need to treat them with the same respect as your full-time workforce, something that doesn’t always happen.

A study on gig workers presented by Verizon Connect found that only 62% said that they had received the same level of care as permanent staff. To make matters worse, a measly 33% have been provided with adequate health and safety training.

With the gig economy continuously growing year by year, businesses need to honour the impact and diversity these workers bring to the table.

Celebrate important holidays

Celebrating cultural practices are part and parcel of diverse establishments, but it can be hard to do when you’re dealing with a remote team.

While granting holidays or days off is up to the management’s discretion, even something as simple as greeting your team members via messaging platforms (i.e. during religious holidays) shows that you are paying attention to the little details, and are making an effort to try and learn about cultures different from your own.

This will have a positive impact on company culture, and ensure that everyone feels seen and recognised at work regardless of religion, race, gender, and ability.

📖 Read our article on LGBTQ+ mentors in history to celebrate 📖

Prioritise mental health

Thankfully, this year has seen an increase in public discourse around mental health, particularly within work environments. Increased feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression as a result of Covid-19 made mental health a widespread issue for businesses to address.

Working remotely can take its toll on mental health in many different ways. And so organisations need to go beyond mere lip service and make sure that a thorough wellness action plan is put in place. This may include allowances for mental health leave, appointing mental health first aiders, community groups, flexible work arrangements, and even mentoring programs.

Read up on 10 ways to encourage your people to focus on self care with our guide

However, what’s even more important is that managers read up on the various forms that mental health illnesses can take, in order to avoid reducing these issues to mere stress. People are affected differently by mental health issues, and a truly inclusive workforce factors all of these differences into their solutions. The more these issues are openly discussed and encouraged, the more diverse solutions will evolve.

For more tips on supporting employee mental health while working from home, check out this blog.

Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion

Acknowledge there’s always room for improvement

Last but not least, it’s important to always keep in mind that championing diversity and inclusion is a long game. You can’t build a diverse workforce overnight, especially if it’s something that you haven’t looked into before.

In line with the first point, your action plan should leave plenty of room for goals to be met down the line—which could mean years from now. Being upfront with this knowledge also shows employees that diversity remains a top priority for your company rather than just a mere gimmick.

Businesses who want to thrive next year should start looking into their remote operations as early as now to see what else can be improved. Creating a diverse and inclusive remote work culture can make your current team a lot happier while also helping you attract top talent.

Guest Author: Sarah Parks
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