Mentoring is widely recognised as one of the most powerful and impactful ways of helping an individual to gain experience, learn new skills, develop and to ultimately grow in their career. This is why mentoring is often used as a technique within organisations of all shapes and sizes. And mentoring is gaining traction too – with more and more organisations looking to offer it to employees as a way of helping with employee engagement, knowledge sharing and employee retention too. It has, however, been a traditionally tricky technique to effectively implement.
By its very nature, mentoring is flexible. Based on the very simple concept of one individual (the ‘mentor’) helping another (the ‘mentee’), it can take several different forms. Mentors and their mentees can meet weekly, monthly, quarterly or sporadically. A mentoring relationship might last for a month or several years. It might focus on specific challenges in the workplace or be in place simply as a general guidepost for individuals to develop and grow. And it’s all these considerations which make the implementation of mentoring programmes tricky.
Fortunately for HR directors and those in learning & development roles within larger organisations, technology is beginning to appear on the scene to help make mentoring more resource-effective, accessible and, vitally, reportable. It isn’t just companies that find mentoring challenging though. Individuals, like myself, have struggled with mentoring previously too. I, myself, was looking for a mentor just over a year ago and found it incredibly difficult to find one. Where does someone like me, who is not part of a large organisation and doesn’t have access to mentoring programmes, go to find a mentor? It’s this question and challenge which drove me to setup PushFar, a web-based career progression and mentoring platform, aimed at tackling all these issues surrounding mentoring.
There are a few ways in which technology is helping to transform mentoring, making it easier for everyone involved – from the managers of mentoring programmes through to those mentors and mentees, managing their own mentoring relationships. Below are a few traditional mentoring challenges that technology like ours is combatting.
The concept of mentor matching is simple enough. Forming a mentoring relationship with two individuals where a mentor with experience can provide support and guidance to a mentee. The big issue here is that for mentor managers it can be a very resource-heavy process! Imaging having just 100 mentors and mentees and trying to pair them based on experience, personality type, office location and a number of additional potential considerations. It can quickly become extremely challenging and simply is not scalable for larger companies with thousands of employees. Technology can help drastically. With mentor matching technology that can consider availability, skills, experience, office locations and much more too, it can take the resource and manual labour out of the process and allow organisations to quickly scale-up mentoring schemes and programmes.
Mentoring programmes often start with enthusiastic employees and members getting behind the schemes and engaging. Unfortunately, as weeks and months go on, mentoring engagement tends to flounder. Work gets in the way. Individuals forget to schedule in meetings. Keeping track of mentoring is challenging and ultimately those mentoring relationships that started strong, begin to die. For those in charge of mentoring schemes, it’s a huge problem and one that I’ve spoken with a lot of HR directors about. The manual process (again) involved in sending out emails and checking in with mentors and mentees, to see how things are going, can take a long time and simply isn’t effective. Technology can help to automate these nudge emails and reminders – making it easier for mentors and mentees to schedule in meetings when they should and ultimately keeping that engagement high.
Keeping track of mentoring is another big challenge. Who is mentoring who? How long have they been mentoring for? How often do they meet? Have they set goals and targets? Is it helping to keep employees engaged and retained in an organisation? These, and several other questions are commonly asked by company directors, managers and senior leaders. The problem is that the answers usually aren’t available. With mentoring platforms and mentor software reporting is a breeze. These technologies track everything and allow administrators to put together relevant, useful and insightful statistics and reports.
There are several other challenges around mentoring too. Being able to keep on top of goals and targets, scheduling in meetings with your mentor or mentee, understanding how mentoring is helping, the list goes on. Technology really is helping to transform mentoring in a big way now. In the present day and in years to come, with younger generations moving between roles at a faster pace, it is key that mentoring be considered at the forefront of company agendas.