Mentoring is a tried-and-tested method to introduce new hires to your organization and foster great relationships between your employees outside of their usual working teams.
Now, more than ever, organizations are turning to the wonders of virtual conferencing software like Microsoft Teams to widen the pool of available mentors for new employees.
Here, at CoffeePals, we believe in making remote work more human. We’ve developed a tool for Microsoft Teams that will let colleagues build stronger bonds with each other by automatically matching people up to virtually “meet for a coffee”.
What is Virtual mentoring? What are its benefits? What are some good practices organizations should follow for successful virtual mentorship programs? In this article, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about virtual mentoring. Let’s go!
What is Virtual Mentoring?
At first glance, the concept of virtual mentoring shouldn’t be too challenging to implement. Virtual mentoring is where experienced mentors train and advise mentees through virtual communication channels such as video calls, email, chat and more.
It refers to a standard mentorship program, but instead of meeting face-to-face, participants jump on a video call instead. This concept really took off during the COVID-19 pandemic as the only viable substitute for in-person mentoring sessions with staff working from home.
Mentorship programs, on the whole, help employees settle into organizations easier and foster great employee engagement. Mentoring also helps the mentor, as according to the Harvard Business Review, mentors experience less stress and anxiety at work, and find their job more meaningful.
However, as businesses return to the office, virtual mentoring programs still have a role to play.
Benefits of Virtual Mentoring
Virtual Mentoring Includes Remote Workers
Virtual mentoring during the pandemic was a brilliant way for remote workers to feel less isolated from their organization. Without the office environment, it can be extremely difficult for employees to build meaningful relationships with others outside of their immediate teams and to experience an effective onboarding process.
Such mentorships can help employees feel more engaged with their company, with research from Moving Ahead finding that 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentorship, and feel more confident. Virtual mentoring inspires confidence in employees, ultimately leading to happier, more productive team members.
Remote working isn’t going away any time soon. According to an August 2020 survey from Software Advice, 49% of HR managers plan on hiring more remote workers after the pandemic. Virtual mentoring is simply the only way to carry out mentoring programs for those working from home.
Even for hybrid work environments, virtual mentorships ensure that mentoring sessions aren’t restricted by the days of the week when both the mentor and mentee are in the office.
It Provides Greater Convenience and Flexibility
Remote mentoring is even useful for fully in-office companies. A remote Teams call is far easier to organize and fit into the workday than formal in-person sessions. No matter where in the office building participants are, mentors and mentees can quickly hop on a call whenever needed.
This is particularly helpful for busy mentors with heavy workloads– or perhaps even childcare responsibilities. Virtual mentoring means less time out of a busy day spent travelling to a meeting room.
Virtual meetings across the board are far more time-efficient than in-person ones, as according to Lifesize, 90% of employees say that it’s easier to get their point across over a video call. Going remote reduces the extra workload that mentoring schemes place on mentors, whilst still retaining its lucrative benefits.
There Is a Wider Pool of Mentors
When you make mentoring more flexible and convenient, you’re bound to end up with a greater number of experienced employees that are willing to help mentees out. An important aspect here, however, is the location redundancy of virtual mentorship programs.
It does not matter at which location – or even where in the world – mentors are based. A Teams call absolutely destroys any distance between mentees and mentors, exposing new employees to a diverse pool of great mentors.
You can easily organize mentoring sessions with tools like CoffeePals. A virtual program makes sure everyone who wants to be mentored can get the right person for them.
It Allows For Mentorship Programs Outside Of The Office
By removing the location barrier, virtual mentorships open up a brilliant new possibility. What if mentees were paired with mentors from partner firms? Or perhaps retired employees volunteering to help out? The possibilities of such a program are endless.
Employees with a particular interest in subject areas your company isn’t involved in could be found mentors in other organizations who do this work. This facilitates a brilliant experience and knowledge transfer between organizations.
Companies could offer mentorship opportunities for budding students and graduates to guide the next generation of talent in the workforce. And, yes, virtual mentorship services are far easier to scale and monetize for those companies looking to offer mentor sessions as a business product, because you can do these sessions from practically anywhere.
Virtual Mentoring Best Practices
As with any initiative, virtual mentoring isn’t 100% guaranteed to be a success. Here are some of our top tips for creating a successful virtual mentorship program.
Encourage Video Calls over Voice or Email
It can be more difficult to form a meaningful connection with another person over a voice call or by email. Indeed, it’s harder to do this over a Teams call than it would be in person.
A good practice is to encourage both mentors and mentees to turn on their cameras during sessions. For mentors, it’s much easier to notice when a mentee is worried or anxious when you can see their face. Conversely, mentees are more likely to feel a personal connection in a video call.
Ensure pairings are suitable for each other
Sure, there’s no way to guarantee chemistry between a mentoring pairing. But it can go a long way if pairings are decided with a little more thought than drawing names out of a hat.
Here are a few attributes it may useful to focus on when matchmaking:
- Age: For instance, pairing millennials and Gen Z’s together makes for a more relatable, chilled out pairing.
- Gender: Women may find it more comfortable to approach other women about concerns, and vice versa! It’s important to gauge a preference, as inter-gender mentorships are just as empowering as same-gender ones.
- Background: Mentees may find it easier to relate to a mentor that has a similar background. This could be a similar area they grew up in, similar social backgrounds, education etc.
- Interests: Common interests are a brilliant icebreaker!
CoffeePals makes it easy to automate this matchmaking process. CoffeePals automates matching colleagues together on a regular basis – and across teams.
Through Coffee Maker, a Teams bot will regularly send icebreaker questions into a community channel to get your team talking. This is an effective way to discover similar interests and find the right mentorship pairing.
Mentors should schedule meetings properly
A frustrating truth of many mentorship programs is that too often, mentors forget to meet with their mentees and don’t give them regular meetings. Sessions should be regular – once a week if possible. Unfortunately, this target isn’t always met.
A great solution to this is to schedule a set time and date for meetings. Luckily, with Microsoft Teams this is extremely easy. Adding mentoring sessions to participants’ calendars makes sure everyone knows what time to log in and allows for mentees to prepare for the meeting.
Encourage mentees to keep notes of things to discuss
In order for mentors to give useful, meaningful advice, they rely on mentees approaching them with any queries or worries they may have. However, it’s all too easy to forget what you wanted to mention once you hop on to the video call.
Therefore, mentors should encourage mentees to keep a notebook with them at all times to write down anything they’d like to mention during sessions. This could be stuff they’re not sure of, any concerns or just something interesting they’d like to share.
Mentors should try their best to address every concern that mentees approach them with.
Automate Virtual Mentorship Pairings with CoffeePals
CoffeePals is the best platform for facilitating regular, fresh virtual mentorship pairings. CoffeePals is a Microsoft Teams App that matches people within your organization to meet over a coffee (virtually).
This allows you to grow deeper connections within your team, and get employees involved in cross-team communication. We use an advanced algorithm to frequently generate new matches for employees to “meet” for a coffee.
Not only can CoffeePals facilitate virtual mentorship, but it’s also great for remote onboarding and virtual lunches just to name a few.
Get Started with CoffeePals
It’s as easy as 1-2-3! First, create a new team in Microsoft Teams called “CoffeePals”. Then, add the app. CoffeePals is free to add to Teams – either from our website coffeepals.com or through the Team’s App Store.
Then, invite your colleagues to the brand-new team. It’s that simple. The Coffee Maker bot will get busy right away providing your team with regular icebreakers.
To see how CoffeePals can help your teams build meaningful connections and facilitate successful virtual mentorships, download the app for free and give it a try!