The Age of Distributed Mentoring Has Arrived

COMPUTER USERWay back in 2002, Fast Company published a case study, “Inside Intel’s Mentoring Movement,” that is still worth reading today. The author, Fara Warner, reported that Intel’s best mentoring practices included setting up “partnering relationships” between senior managers and younger trainees, having those pairs write down their expectations in “partnership contracts,” and allowing the mentor and the mentee leeway to decide what they wanted to talk about.

That’s the way Intel conceptualized mentoring at the time, and those fundamentals are still sound. But since the case study was written, many changes have taken place in the world of training. One of the biggest of them is distributed training – training is delivered on tablets, or in computerized training facilities, to large numbers of employees in multiple locations. Does that mean that mentoring no longer works, or that it should be abandoned in our new high-tech age? Not at all, because mentoring provides benefits that are hard to duplicate in any other way. Through mentoring, new employees feel valued, learn better, get expert advice on using what they learned, and develop durable relationships with their mentors that they can maintain in the long term.

How can your organization still enjoy those benefits, even in our new age of distributed training? In short, you can build mentoring relationships using the same technologies that you use to deliver distributed training. There are several options.

  • If you use classroom training, you can let classroom trainers use emails, tweets, intranet communications and social media to stay in touch and continue to mentor their trainees.
  • If your training takes place via mobile phones, tablets, or in computerized training centers, you can create virtual mentoring relationships using those same channels.

What Mentoring Messages Should You Send?

You can create a structured series of messages and communications that mentor your trainees remotely. Some options include . . .

  • Start with a motivational “welcome to mentoring” message that introduces the mentor to trainees, opens the lines of communication, and invites trainees to share questions and concerns.
  • Have your remote mentor be a real, live person who trainees know or know about. Messages from your CEO or head of training carry weight with trainees.
  • Make it easy for mentees to reply to Virtual mentoring works best when they can submit questions right from the emails or tweets they receive, for example, or right on the page they are looking at on your intranet, your Facebook page or other social media platforms.
  • Follow up with tips and questions that are tied to topics that were taught in training. You can ask whether trainees have applied specific skills they used in training, for example, or to reply to surveys.
  • Supply an ongoing stream of new tips and insights that reinforce what was learned in training.
  • Have your virtual mentor host webinars, share videos, provide whitepapers, and offer other resources that keep training alive and ongoing.
  • If you have enough trainees in remote locations, have their virtual mentor visit, conduct follow-up training sessions or meet with individual mentees.