Making Employee Mentoring Programs Personal
At its core, mentoring is about learning from the experience of others. It brings personalized and relevant advice to mentees from people who have insights and expertise to offer. It can be meaningful, educational, and even life-changing.
But does mentoring lose something when software is introduced into the mix?
The short answer is no. Mentoring software does not dilute the personal connections and interactions that people have during their mentoring relationships. If anything, it helps create more effective mentoring relationships. Here are two reasons why.
Mentoring software streamlines the matching process into a more effective and efficient tool for all parties involved. For example, in River, people can find their ideal match via our matching algorithm that takes into account the competencies a person wants to learn about, and the skill areas a person is qualified to teach someone about. River can also be configured so that organizations can allow mentees to apply filters that will sort the available mentors based on additional criteria that may be important to them (e.g., location, business unit/department in which the mentors work, and diversity-based profile information). The software allows people to view multiple candidates and pick the one best suited for their specific mentoring needs.
This is a huge advancement over the way people typically connect for mentoring. Can you imagine how frustrating it can be to try to find a mentor by asking around via friends and colleagues in the hopes that someone out there might know someone who would be interested in helping you (and would also have the right skill set that you are looking for)? Or what about the poor mentoring administrators out there, who are forced to waste days using spreadsheets to hand-match participants as they look at mentees and mentors and attempt to assemble matches that they hope will work, but that aren’t really based on anything besides titles or locations? This is no way to find a mentor or mentee!
Mentoring software allows people to quickly find and connect with someone who can help them or who needs their help. In fact, research we conducted with our clients in 2007 showed that 90% of respondents agreed that the mentoring program helped them develop a positive relationship with another individual in the company. That is an impressive number of people who found the mentoring program helped them with an interpersonal area. And just think—this was 10 years ago. Imagine how much the software has changed over these past years as we gained technological advancements, and how much more powerful it is today as it evolves. The capacity of mentoring software to have a positive impact on people finding one another is clear.
A second area in which mentoring software can help is with mentoring conversations. Dialogue between mentoring partners is a critical part of mentoring. This is when mentees can share their problems, ask their questions, express their concerns, describe their victories, and frame up their situations. It’s also the time when mentors can listen carefully, share their experiences, ask questions to drive learning, offer advice and resources, and engage in meaningful communication with their mentee.
Mentoring software can help facilitate this type of deep dialogue, allowing people to be involved in a mentoring relationship with one another, even when they aren’t in the same location. That’s not going to be a huge shock to most of you, seeing as how we love our smartphones, tablets, video chatting, and more. But mentoring software can be so much more than just a quick tweet to a group of followers. For example, in River, the software is designed to help mentees and mentors focus on their specific goals for the relationship and then facilitate conversation around those goals. Everything has a purpose. It’s not just broadcasting thoughts and opinions to a huge crowd, but rather pointed conversations between people who are brought together for a singular purpose—the mentoring relationship.
Chris Browning and Randy Emelo of River hosted a webinar on mentoring conversations and brought home this point with great effectiveness. They showcased a dialogue model that mentees and mentors can use, and brought it to life by actually using it with the participants at the webinar. It was a wonderful example of being able to show people exactly what mentoring software can do, rather than just telling them about it. Watch the webinar for yourself here.
These are just two ways in which mentoring software can be an asset to mentoring relationships, not a deterrent to forming personal bonds with one’s mentee or mentor.
Want to read more? Check out this blog from Randy Emelo on embracing curiosity in learning.