Over the last few years, remote companies have found ways to improve their daily operations and create systems for completing all aspects of the business online. However, fewer companies have taken the time to focus on the employee experience side of things.
Without mentorship opportunities, remote workers are more likely to be disconnected from the company and dissatisfied with their place of work, leading to a higher turnover rate for the company.
Benefits of virtual mentorship programs
Remote companies have a tremendous opportunity to advance their company by instituting some form of virtual mentorship. These programs help employees feel more connected and cared for at their place of work. Here are just a few of the perks:
1. Company culture
It can be difficult for new employees to feel established in the company’s culture. People are usually able to figure out unwritten rules in a traditional workplace by context and experience. However, in a remote setting, they don't have informal daily access to other teammates.
Mentorship programs give new employees a chance to learn about the expectations of the company as well as tips and tricks for success. Since mentors are typically higher in the company, mentees can network with them easily.
2. Employee satisfaction
Employees feel more satisfied when they believe they are valued at work. Investing in a mentorship program shows that the company prioritizes professional development. People are more likely to stay with a company that provides those growth opportunities.
The benefits of a mentor relationship go both ways. Mentor meetings provide a safe place to ask questions, get to know someone in the company and find shared experiences. These relationships build satisfaction and can lower stress and anxiety for both parties.
New hires get some much-needed guidance and support from their mentors and senior staff – who can feel distanced from the company's day-to-day operations – become regrounded. Senior staff and new team members tend to have difficulty seeking advice and consolation because of their status in the company, but having a back-and-forth mentor relationship gives them an outlet for their feelings.
3. New skills and knowledge
Each person involved in a mentoring relationship can learn new things if they’re open to it. Younger employees bring fresh skills and knowledge that would benefit senior employees. These new hires are typically fresh from college and bring new technology skills and the most current industry knowledge.
Senior staff members bring wisdom and experience. They’ve been in the industry and at the company longer. By passing on that expertise, their knowledge base isn’t lost when they ultimately leave the company.
4. Better leaders
Leadership skills are challenging to learn – and, unfortunately, reading books alone won’t be enough. Companies often spend a significant amount of money training their middle and upper management to be good leaders. They funnel those funds into courses and seminars, but at the end of the day, the best way to learn is by doing.
Being a mentor is a low-pressure environment for practicing good leadership. Guiding mentees helps aspiring leaders add to their interpersonal skillset by practicing active listening and giving meaningful feedback.
3 tips for creating an effective mentorship program
1. Provide value
Employee buy-in is the primary measure of success for a mentorship program. Without their support, the program won’t be effective or lasting. The best way to ensure satisfaction is to provide value, which may look different in each mentoring relationship.
During the first meeting, everyone should express what they would like to get out of the relationship. Mentees may be looking for tips for success at the company, general industry knowledge or professional development opportunities. Furthermore, especially for newer career-starters, mentees might need personal advice on managing money and thinking through career steps while they’re in their twenties.
Mentors should come prepared to advise mentees and meet them where they are. One meeting may be a presentation of resources for advancing technical skills. Another meeting may shift gears and focus on information about setting up a 401(k) and the company’s retirement plan.
2. Make intentional matches
Mentorship is most effective when those involved have strong similarities in their interests and goals. If possible, take the time to have participants fill out a survey that collects details about preferences of gender, age and level in the company. Ask mentees to be specific with their future career goals and match them with someone who has made it to that stage.
If no one seems like a good fit for a particular mentee, consider setting them up with someone outside the company. This is especially helpful for smaller companies who’ve hired for a new position and there’s no one at the company yet who is advanced in that area of expertise.
Ultimately, mentees will get the most value from a mentor they feel comfortable with and trust. Shared values and interests can help facilitate the bonding process and move the relationship forward. Companies should be intentional about pairing mentees with mentors who have the knowledge and skills to help them move toward accomplishing their professional goals.
3. Collect feedback
Collecting and acting on participant feedback is the best way to improve a mentorship program. Have mentors and mentees provide their thoughts at different stages. Early feedback can determine the overall quality of a match. If the relationship doesn’t provide value, it may be best to switch someone to a new mentor.
At the end of the mentorship experience, have participants fill out a survey with their thoughts on the program as a whole. Use that feedback to make improvements as needed. Companies that don’t listen and make changes will find that their efforts at effective mentorship are unsuccessful.
Mentorship is important for remote work cultures
Companies should structure mentorship programs in a way that best benefits all employees. A program that is too structured and takes a lot of time will decrease satisfaction. A study found that 61% of Generation Z and 57% of Millenials found the number of video calls when working from home was hindering their ability to get work done.
At the same time, a program that is too loose without any specific goals will most likely be ignored and lack any type of value for mentors and mentees.