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Hazel Raoult


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Employee Mentorship Program For Remote Workforce


The coronavirus pandemic put remote working in the spotlight two years ago when everyone was confined to the walls of their homes. And yes, it has undoubtedly transformed lives for the better — from enabling a better work-life balance to having increased levels of productivity.

No wonder 65% of employees want to work remotely full-time after-COVID-19. Moreover, remote workforces are 29% happier than onsite employees and plan to stay associated with the same company for five years. That is a huge deal!

On top of that, 74% of CFOs and finance leaders have no plans to go back and say at least some of their employees will work fully remotely after the pandemic.

However, a drawback is that remote workers are often disconnected. Employee growth can be a massive challenge if nothing is done about creating a culture that emphasizes learning and development — regardless of the capacity in which they work for you.

The fact that your employees are working virtually should not stop you from rolling out an employee membership program to make your entire workforce — remote and onsite — more knowledgeable in different business areas.

Mentoring is a powerful tool that you can use to minimize employee turnover and increase overall engagement. In this article, we will learn everything you need to know to create an employee mentorship program for your digital workplace. Let us start with the basics:

Benefits of mentoring remote employees

Building a connected remote work culture is impossible without bringing teammates together who may not otherwise cross paths. Mentorship programs can support your remote teams in several ways, including:

  • Decreasing stress and preventing burnout for employees by making them feel like their work is more meaningful even if they are sitting miles apart from the rest of the team.
  • Helping them learn new skills and strengthen their abilities to lead to company growth and prevent costly turnover.
  • Transferring knowledge of senior leaders to junior employees so that expertise does not get lost when the former leaves the company.
  • Retaining employees for the long haul, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds.

According to a Randstad survey, employees are 49% less likely to leave the company if a mentorship program is in place, thus saving $3,000 per candidate per year in hiring costs.

How does mentoring for remote mentoring work?

It is similar to a typical face-to-face mentoring program. The remote workers meet with their mentors at a predetermined cadence, which could be monthly or bi-weekly, to discuss their professional goals, ideas, or challenges.

It offers both parties an opportunity to talk, reflect and learn, thus breaking down silos in your distributed team. There are several mentoring models for you to choose from:

  • Group mentoring where a leader advises a group of employees
  • Traditional 1-to-1 mentorship where a senior employee is paired with a more junior employee. The mentor acts as a coach to encourage the mentee.
  • Reverse mentoring, where the junior employee becomes the mentor and the senior leader a mentee
  • Peer mentoring is where employees from the same level in the company are paired together to share their expertise in different areas. Degreed proves that 55% of employees learn from each other regularly.

How to start a mentorship program for your remote workforce

Such programs, when done right, can serve as emotional and psychological comfort for long-term employee well-being — professionally and personally. Here are the best practices you need to be aware of while creating a mentorship program:

1. Define your purpose

What goals do you hope to achieve with this program? Do you want to prepare future leaders for the company? Or do you want to engage new candidates by creating an environment for learning? Both mentors and mentees can also have their goals.

For instance, a mentor may want to develop a reputation as an advisor and guide for others. On the other hand, the mentee may want to gain visibility for potential promotions. The outcomes of your mentorship program may vary.

Therefore, structure it accordingly so that both parties benefit and you see actual growth in your organization and not just superficial.

2. Establish measures of success

Once you have decided the top-level goals you want to achieve through the program, choose KPIs that help you keep track of success. Some examples include the number of participants, the retention rate of mentors and mentees, program participation rate, internal hires, and so on.

Make sure your goals are Smart, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART). Examining these metrics will help you assess how things are panning in the programs and if adjustments are needed.

3. Design the framework

It is helpful for you to provide participants with specific guidelines such as meeting frequency, mentorship duration, goal setting templates, and mentoring best practices. With established benchmarks for success, it is easier to create check-ins such as checkpoints and surveys.

It might be worth setting up an introductory webinar or training session so everyone knows what they can expect from the program. This also helps prevent the relationship from sliding to the bottom of the participants’ to-do lists.

4. Match up employees through a survey

Make your employees fill in a questionnaire when they opt in to the program to collect basic information such as basic demographic information (gender, location, age), areas of expertise, interests, gender preference for the mentor, goals for joining the program (e.g., personal development and functional), long-term career goals, and so on.

This is a crucial ingredient of a successful mentoring experience. Having employee data will make it easier for you to see which employees fit better together. If you have a small workforce of 50-100 employees, compare answers on spreadsheets. Otherwise, deploy a platform like Together to automate the pairing process.

5. Develop a communication plan

After the employees are matched, they must break the ice before getting on to have a productive first session. This becomes more challenging when interactions take place virtually and not in person. You can help employees build a rapport in a remote setting by:

  • Conducting ice-breaking sessions wherein both parties discuss everyday things like their favorite movie, the scariest thing they have done for fun, dream job growing up, and so on. This helps eliminate any awkwardness when the program kickstarts.
  • Once the mentor and mentee have started to know each other, you must drive the dialogue toward something more practical. This could mean exploring interview-type questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What are your long-term goals?” or “What skill would you like to improve?”

Such informal sessions will help both parties understand the best way to communicate, schedule conversations, or share insights.

6. Tap into external mentors

Pairing more senior employees with less experienced ones helps build a more connected remote environment. However, if your team is still tiny, that arrangement might not make any sense. In that case, it might be beneficial for you to tap into a broader network to find potential mentors with relevant experience.

For instance, if a marketing head joins you in a remote capacity, you could introduce them to 10-20 marketing experts you know personally as there would be no one else for them to go to if they hit a roadblock or want to bounce off ideas.

7. Reinforce accountability among your remote workforce

A virtual relationship means your mentor and mentee would not run into each other at company-wide meetings or while getting their afternoon coffee. And although email is great, it can easily get lost in our inboxes.

That is what makes remote participant engagement a bit more challenging. It would help if you thus put processes in place to budge mentors and mentees from time to time to re-engage. Share guidelines regarding how often they should connect and accordingly set reminders.

Offer small incentives (such as complimentary Starbucks coffee) every time participants attend a session. Boost accountability among your mentors and mentees.

8. Utilize the right remote mentorship tools

Although the concept of mentoring is simple enough theoretically, you must provide both parties with the right tools. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Slack, and Zoom make live communication extremely easy.

You could also use mentoring software such as Traqq, which lets you track employee activity so mentors can follow up, or Insala, an all-in-one software, which contains matching criteria and multi-program functionality.

9. Take surveys and collect qualitative feedback

Instituting check-ins after each session and conducting quarterly or bi-annual surveys enable you to assess the mentoring progress and gauge the participants' overall satisfaction with their mentoring matches.

If you do not collect feedback, you risk having participants who are not happy with how the program is unfolding and may grudgingly attend mentoring meetings or stop attending altogether. That leads to a waste of time and resources.

Over to you

Mentoring is all about human-to-human connection. Whether your employees connect in real life or virtually, encourage them to do so genuinely and intentionally. Good planning lays the groundwork for the success of your remote employee mentorship program. Therefore, put enough time to prepare for the whole exercise. All the best!

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Hazel Raoult

Marketing Manager

Read more from Hazel Raoult

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