by Ed Johnson, Co-Founder of PushFar.
Mentoring is recognised widely as one of the single most effective ways for individuals to progress and develop in their careers. Whether as part of a simple learning and development programme, part of a diversity and inclusion initiative of an improvement scheme, mentoring is continually used by HR and people teams on a global scale. Yet, there are a few problems with the ways in which traditional mentoring programmes and schemes are delivered. Fortunately, technology and the development of platforms dedicated to streamlining the mentoring process, are now revolutionising the way in which mentoring can be offered.
Not so long ago, and still quite often even today, organisations used spreadsheets and emails to match and pair mentors and mentees together. There was often a guessing game of what mentees were looking for and for those more advanced programmes there was perhaps a PDF or word application form. If individuals were lucky and there truly was dedication from HR teams, these would be considered as part of the matching. The truth, however, is that quite often people teams in organisations are seriously stretched for resource as it is, and just pairing 20 mentors and mentees is hard enough, let alone hundreds or thousands of employees. So, what happened? Well, organisations frequently reserved mentoring for ‘top talent’ or those most visibly struggling individuals. Yet, as we know, mentoring is highly beneficial to everyone on every level – whether you’re a recent graduate or a managing director, being a mentor or a mentee comes with a significant number of benefits and ultimately mentoring should be available to everyone.
So, why mentoring?
Mentoring has been attributed to several extremely valuable objectives for organisations. Perhaps the most significant one to reference at the moment is diversity and inclusion. Mentoring can have a genuine impact on inclusion initiatives. It takes the concept of employee resource groups and puts the inclusive action upon them, to share thoughts, ideas, experience, knowledge and challenges, to educate both others within employee resource groups, but also those individuals unaware of challenges inclusion groups may be facing.
If we take the LGBTQ+ networks in an organisation, a senior director may be unlikely to consider international secondment challenges for employees from an equality stance. Yet there are still a significant number of territories globally where it is illegal to be gay. Do we expect CEO’s, company directors or even department heads to be fully aware of this? Perhaps we should, but realistically, we do not. How can we change awareness of challenges minority groups are facing? Mentoring. In fact, PushFar surveyed their mentors and mentees, to find that more than 80% agreed that mentoring was an extremely effective way to tackle challenges around diversity and inclusion.
Mentoring is also attributed to improved employee engagement, career progression and employee retention. The idea that around half of all employees leave their job owing to management conflict is a big concern. Putting a mentor in place and giving individuals an alternative channel for support, learning and development can play a significant role in reducing employee turnover.
How can technology help mentor matching?
Platforms and technologies like PushFar’s mentoring software are now making this possible, transforming mentoring programmes and closing the gap on those individuals not being offered mentors or mentees. Designed to manage and intelligently offer suggested matches to mentors and mentees, platforms and technologies can then help individuals to stay on track with their mentoring relationships and provide HR leaders and talent teams with valuable and previously opaque insights into mentoring activities. Mentoring can now be on an ‘ongoing’ basis, rather than having a fixed start and end date. This means that as an individual joins an organisation, they can get involved in mentoring instantly and find relevant matches from within their organisation there and then, rather than having to wait potentially 364 days before the next year’s mentoring programme starts!
Furthermore, we know that mentoring is extremely personal. We may face certain challenges at certain times and these often are not aligned with the traditional mentoring ‘start date’. Take, for instance, an organisation who’s mentoring programmes starts in January and runs until December. What happens if you need a mentor to help you navigate through a specific challenge in March or April? You would have to wait until the following January to request a mentor, which is neither helpful nor realistically practical. With technologies and platforms focused on mentoring you can join at the time right for you.
What about technology after the matching process?
Mentoring engagement is notoriously hard to sustain. For the organisations managing mentor matching successfully, individuals will often have a great first meeting. What happens after that? Individuals should schedule their next meeting. Often, they’ll forget and ironically ‘work’ simply gets in the way. These mentoring technologies deliver helpful prompts to mentors and mentees about scheduling their next meeting, setting goals and keeping on top of their objectives. So, not only is the matching and reporting sorted but mentoring engagement is also improved considerably with mentoring software.
So, if you’re looking at mentoring in your organisation, think about technology and how much of an impact it will have on not only resource-saving but also cost effective learning!