Mentorship in the Digital Age: How Technology Can Enhance the Mentor-Mentee Relationship

In this article, we’ll explore the impact of virtual mentorship and the different types of technology used in mentoring. You will also find best practices for utilising technology in mentorship and the possible challenges to avoid.

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Mentoring has become a critical component of career growth and development. It benefits individuals by allowing them to gain practical knowledge from a more experienced employee. It can be a game-changer when seeking job opportunities. Mentors, in turn, can also refine their skills by educating others. All of this lets organisations improve their workers’ skill sets and boost job satisfaction.

However, we can’t ignore the rapid growth of technology in various spheres. AI, big data, automation, the Internet of Things, and many other terms have come to the stage, improving employee efficiency. Plus, more and more people choose remote working. So companies have to introduce tools to ensure team collaboration and communication.

Mentorship is no exception. Living in the 2020s, you have to employ cutting-edge applications and platforms to streamline your mentoring programmes. What can technology offer in mentoring? In this article, we’ll explore the answer to this question, the impact of virtual mentorship, and the different types of technology used in mentoring. You will also find best practices for utilising technology in mentorship and the possible challenges to avoid.

The Traditional Mentorship Model: Characteristics and Limitations

What do you imagine when hearing the words “traditional mentorship”? You may envision sitting in a coffee shop with a member of your network and asking them a long list of questions about their path to success. Or you may picture meeting an industry leader at a conference.

Another scenario can be seeking advice from a more experienced coworker or an office boss you look up to and admire. While there are many other examples, one thing remains the same: these are face-to-face interactions. They have lots of advantages, such as being direct and personal. We can enumerate other benefits of traditional mentorship, for example:

• The ability to see each other’s faces and get a sense of each other’s personality, communication style, and demeanour, that is, to put a face to the name.
• Establishing trust and building a rapport. Partners interact with each other in a more natural and organic way. They can pick up on nonverbal cues like facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, which can provide valuable context.
• Providing deeper understanding. Since speaking with a live person feels more genuine and personal than typing on a computer, many people still feel more comfortable doing so.
• Completing tasks faster. As both parties are present and concentrated in person, getting answers to crucial questions and finishing tasks may be more manageable.

Yet, such an approach has its disadvantages, including:

• Traditional mentoring can only take place if a mentor and mentee live in the same area to make frequent in-person interactions possible. Naturally, this raises questions regarding accessibility, location, and convenience.
• It can limit the amount of communication between mentors and mentees. Younger or less seasoned business people frequently experience anxiety or shyness, which causes them to hold back from asking questions or providing information. Furthermore, face-to-face interactions with an influential and experienced professional can be intimidating for someone just entering their field.

The Impact of Technology on Mentorship: What Are the Benefits of Virtual Mentorship?

Even though traditional mentorship provides opportunities for personal connection and bonding, the digital era has transformed the way of communication. Thanks to the Internet, we can do anything anywhere with just a few clicks. That’s where virtual, or e-mentoring, comes into play. Let’s look at its potential for mentors and mentees.

1. Accessibility

Online communication means you don’t have to leave your home to get assistance. You need a device and Internet connection to interact with anyone, from CEOs to peers. As a result, you can receive more regular and continuous support.

2. Flexibility

In addition to the freedom of location, you can choose any convenient meeting time. You can pick any day or hour suitable for you and your partner, as you’re not connected to a specific setting for gatherings. Suppose you need to make a 45-minute phone call. You’ll need a separate room to talk in the office as you may bother colleagues. While all you need at home is a quiet space, saving much more time and effort.

3. Cost-Effectiveness

Online mentoring is frequently less expensive than face-to-face interactions. Why? The reason is that you don’t have to worry about paying for commuting or missing work. In addition, online mentoring eliminates other expenses, such as renting physical space, providing refreshments, and printing materials.

4. Global Reach

Online mentoring has no boundaries. You can invite as many people as possible. Due to this, businesses can communicate with a large audience, including those in remote areas or different time zones. The best part is that it’s not necessary to be online simultaneously. You can asynchronously connect with others, asking and answering questions with enough time to think.

5. Increased Engagement

The lack of social pressure makes virtual mentoring a far more practical option. There can be various factors influencing behaviour. For example, someone sitting behind a desk creates a barrier between themselves and others. It may instil a sense of power as if this person holds a position of authority or control.

Virtual mentorship eliminates such issues as your position at the table or nonverbal cues like body language and eye contact. It boosts the quality of communication, increasing engagement.

Types of Technology Used in Mentorship

1. Video Conferencing

It’s a tool for communicating remotely with the ability to see each other. Video conferencing software lets people hold individual or group video chats and leverage other valuable tools and features for distant communication and learning, such as:

• screen sharing;
• slideshow;
• recording;
• instant messaging;
• project management tools;
• telephony integration.

Video conferencing has become essential to corporate interactions due to the switch to remote work. You can utilise it for regular meetings, job interviews, and negotiations with potential clients. And it finds its place in mentoring too.

2. Social Media

Social media has become the centre of modern society. You can use it not only for personal communication and sharing news but also for professional purposes. And here is why:

• Social media unites millions of people worldwide.
• You can target users according to their gender, location, interests, business type, language, etc.
• It’s affordable in terms of money. Social media is free, but you can purchase some features like ads to promote your profile.
• You can find, follow, and send direct messages to professionals in the needed field, mentors, or colleagues from other companies. They may post valuable information on their pages, so social networks are a robust learning base.

3. Online Learning Platforms

These are virtual spaces enabling the promotion and distribution of online courses. Another term for online learning platforms is “online course marketplaces” because course designers can sell their materials there.

Similar to traditional schools, these online learning environments provide students with a secure setting with courses and, in many cases, interaction with both teachers and other students. Mentors can also employ these platforms to educate mentees, for example:

• track their progress throughout the course;
• offer a new angle if needed;
• remind mentees of a deadline;
• help them get back on track in case of falling behind.

Some popular online learning platforms that offer mentoring include Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare, and edX.

4. Mentoring Applications and Software

A mentoring app is software for registering, managing, reporting on your mentoring programme, and connecting with other participants. It contains mentoring materials such as session agendas. You can also schedule appointments with your mentor and leave session notes.

Mentoring apps are also useful tools for human resource managers. They let them track mentoring programmes and access the following information:

• who is meeting;
• who is paired with whom;
• the feedback.

A great mentoring app should be available from any device, be it a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Plus, it should be optimised for better mobile conversion rates as more and more people access apps on the go from their smartphones.

Best Practices for Using Technology in Mentorship

Even though technology simplifies the mentoring process, you need to follow some best practices to gain the maximum benefit from virtual mentoring. By planning, you will give yourself the essential knowledge to handle any obstacles. As a result, you can strengthen mentoring relationships and create a more thorough and efficient mentoring programme. Here are some tips to consider.

1. Establishing Communication Guidelines

The first step toward successful mentoring relationships is setting clear expectations and guidelines. These are rules a mentor and mentee should follow, for example:

• reserving a slot for conversation every week;
• sending documents before the scheduled meeting;
• showing up on time for appointments, being prompt in responding to messages, and honouring deadlines;
• not disclosing sensitive information without permission from its owner;
• discussing relevant topics.

Update guidelines regularly to stay current and efficient.

2. Setting Clear Expectations

Too much haste can frustrate both parties. That’s why you should set realistic goals without trying to cover too much in a short time. What should your online mentorship programme be? You can expect from the partnership various outcomes, including learning to cooperate with less experienced employees, learning to educate and inspire others, or boosting confidence in your abilities.

That’s where you need to be specific and establish SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. By doing that, mentors and mentees can be sure they have a clear strategy for the future. For example, you may want to develop a mentee’s public speaking skills in six months. So you can set a goal of writing a script and delivering a speech to the mentor every week.

3. Encouraging Regular Check-Ins

Another important thing is to review progress and discuss concerns. That’s what check-ins are all about. These are meetings with a mentor where you can exchange ideas and updates. Be honest and discuss feelings. How do you evaluate the progress? What would you like to improve? What goals should you establish or adjust?

4. Building Rapport

Rapport is an essential part of reaching your goals. That’s why both parties should demonstrate an interest in cooperation and stay concentrated during virtual meetings. You need to practise active listening, that is, engaging with the speaker to gain a deeper understanding of their message.

You should also take responsibility for your obligations. Regularly show up for meetings and consult your supervisor. Mentees should also feel free to ask questions, provide feedback, and express doubts. Respond to your partner fast enough to keep the programme going. You may also require to be proactive and prevent issues before they arise and impact the learning process.

Challenges of Using Technology in Mentorship

While online mentoring opens up new opportunities for faster and more effective communication, it has its disadvantages, such as:

• Technical difficulties. You need to equip yourself or your staff with the required devices and tools. Employ a powerful mentoring platform to manage relationships, schedule meetings, and set reminders.
• Maintaining interpersonal relationships. It may be hard to understand another person when communicating via text. Even if you hear or see another person, some nonverbal cues may be lost. It reduces the engagement of both participants and hampers communication. Be clear and concise, ask for the opinion of your mentor/mentee, and meet in person between mentorship sessions. If something is wrong, consider pairing with another specialist.
• Ensuring confidentiality. As you transmit data online, there is a high risk of exposing it to unauthorised users. It may happen due to negligence or technical issues, so you should outline privacy norms in guidelines and update the software on time. Your tools should encrypt data and rely on the latest security protocols.

Final Thoughts

Growing technological advancements have created new mentoring opportunities. Location and background are no longer an issue, as you can connect with people around the world. Mentors and mentees can communicate in real-time, thanks to video conferencing tools and texting apps. As a result, there are now more mentors and mentees to choose from. You can easily find the best fit for you!

The accessibility of online resources is another notable improvement. Online training resources, industry news, educational courses, YouTube videos, and TED Talks are all at your disposal. So, mentees no longer have to rely only on their mentor to learn something new.

Technology has also streamlined monitoring mentees’ progress, with various software like PushFar allowing access to data on achievements and engagement. You can also collect participant feedback to ensure more individualised and successful mentoring. Mentorship platforms like PushFar will be crucial in determining how mentorship develops in the future as the world becomes increasingly digital.

Author Bio

Art Malkovich is CEO and co-founder of Onilab, an eCommerce development company. He has about 10 years of experience in team management and web development. He is passionate about keeping up with recent technologies and working on innovative projects like headless commerce solutions and PWAs in particular.

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