By Linda Bølling
Let’s look at some of the benefits of virtual mentoring programmes and the key issues and success criteria that creates high learning outcome and ROI.
How can you build a solid virtual mentoring programme where participants are able to build close relationships and have insightful conversations in spite of physical distance? This is a relevant question for all large organisations today whether they are national or global companies. Many large companies already have mentoring programmes that include a combination of virtual and physical learning events. However, there is a strong movement towards fully virtual mentoring programmes.
Virtual mentoring programmes have many advantages:
Better matching of mentors and mentees
Since they will work virtually, you can create the best matches without considering their location. However, make sure they are not located in time zones that are too far apart.
More time and resources
As you spend less time and cost on travelling you will have more time and resources for virtual learning events and follow-up and the participants do not have to spend hours on travelling.
More learning events more often
Since each virtual learning event takes less time (we recommend 2 hours) you can have more learning events more often and thus support the mentoring relationships even better.
Easier for participants to schedule their meetings
Meeting in virtual space just requires a computer, tablet or smart phone. No need for finding meeting rooms or travelling for meetings.
Less time and resources spent on logistics
Since all learning events are virtual, you will spend less time and resources on conference rooms and accommodation.
The arguments against virtual mentoring programmes that we hear most often are:
Lack of networking opportunities
Yes, networking is different depending on whether you are all in the same physical room or you are in a virtual room together. However, doing learning events with WebEx we are able to place participants in break-out rooms where they have the opportunity to discuss the learning themes in smaller groups and network at the same time. It will not be as informal as it can be in the break of a physical learning event, so instead we also need to encourage them to network outside of these learning events. We recommend establishing peer mentoring groups that have virtual networking meetings several times during the mentoring programme. This often leads them to continue on their own after the closing of the formal programme.
It is much better to meet each other physically
Really? Why? We believe that we need to challenge you as well as the mentors and mentees on this point. Many in business today have learned to work virtually with their colleagues across the world, and we will be pushed more and more towards this method of collaboration. Physical meetings are not better – they are just different – and we all need to learn to take full advantage of virtual meetings. Taking the time during virtual meetings to work together and to have fun together and build relationships.
Organisational benefits of mentoring
According to DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2018 (1), organisations having formal mentoring programmes gain 46% higher leadership quality overall, have 20% lower turnover, 23% more critical roles that can be filled immediately, and they are 1.7 times more capable of capturing organisational knowledge before it is lost.
There is no doubt about the value of mentoring in ensuring the long-term business success. So, remember also to consider the value of virtual mentoring as an alternative in your decisions for using mentoring in your organisation.