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Starting a remote mentorship program: Guide to virtual workplaces

Remote workplaces are becoming more of the norm than the exception to the rule. While there are advantages to this style of working, there are distinct disadvantages around employee development. Remote mentoring programs are becoming a viable way to keep teams connected and growing. Here's how to start one in your organization.

Ryan Carruthers

November 30, 2021

Remote workplaces offer flexibility and the benefit of bringing together a team of top talent regardless of geographical location. However, the flip side is that employees are more disconnected. Employee growth and development can also be a challenge for remote employees. 

Yet, one study found that remote workers were 29% happier than on-site employees. And remote employees said they intended to stay in their jobs for the next five years. That is 13% more than on-site staff.  

If remote workers are happier and more loyal, isn’t it worth finding new ways to engage employees in your virtual workplace?

Why do remote workplaces need mentorship?

Working remotely has its advantages. However, it can lead to feelings of isolation from other employees. Hybrid and remote workplaces also need to overcome the obstacles of employee engagement and team building. A workplace mentorship program can solve all these problems and more. 

Here are some of the top benefits that remote mentoring programs bring: 

Culture

In a remote workplace, establishing a cohesive company culture is difficult. Considering that your employees may not be in the same time zone or even country, getting everyone on the same page is a considerable challenge. With remote mentoring, leaders can help establish a culture from the top down. They do this by pairing leaders, that already understand the culture, with remote employees. 

The leaders can share with their remote mentees what is expected of them, the unwritten rules in their workplace, and other tips that virtual team members may not know if they didn’t have a mentor to tell them. In this way, leaders can set the tone for the culture despite being in different locations.

Inclusion and belonging

Organizations that want to make their workplace more inclusive can use remote mentoring as a tool to develop a diverse remote workplace. Remote work itself creates a more diverse and inclusive team. For example, those with disabilities find working from home a better fit. They have more control over their work environment and are more productive. In addition, remote workplaces have the added benefit of hiring top talent from any geographical area. Remote mentoring can build on these advantages and ensure that everyone feels a part of the organization. 

Team building

Team building is essential to bring employees together and help them learn to work and collaborate. Employees who work in an office together often build camaraderie based on the fact they see each other every day. Unfortunately, this is harder in remote workplaces. 

You’ll need to be more proactive in your team-building efforts, such as organizing virtual team-building activities

Additionally, a remote mentoring program that uses peer-to-peer mentoring can also be helpful. It can be challenging to get leaders to mentor every employee when there’s likely not a perfect 1-to-1 ratio. Instead, remote employees can support one another through peer mentorship. They can leverage their own expertise to help train and develop a fellow team member. Peer mentoring is a great way to connect remote teams.

Employee engagement

A McKinsey study predicted that three to four times as many employees will end up working from home permanently. That presents a challenge from an employee engagement standpoint. Maintaining high levels of engagement in your remote workers is vital to keep your turnover rates low. Remote mentoring programs demonstrate to your employees that you are interested in their development and growth. It shows them you are investing in them, and that will lead to higher levels of engagement and loyalty.  


3 Ways to structure a remote mentorship program

There are various models of workplace mentoring programs that you can use. In the case of remote mentoring, there are three ways you can structure a mentoring program that develops your high-potential, remote employees. 

These include:

1. 1-on-1 mentorship

In a traditional mentorship, a senior employee is paired with a more junior employee. This allows for a one-to-one connection to develop. The mentor acts as an advisor or coach to encourage the mentee. In this scenario, the mentee is in control, and they’ll often use the experience to define and achieve career goals. 

2. Peer mentorship

Another beneficial style of mentoring is peer mentorship. This is where employees who are from the same level in the organization are paired together. One of the employees has more experience in a specific area or with your organization than the other and takes on the mentoring role. 

3. Mentoring circles

Mentoring circles are similar to group mentoring experiences as there are usually several employees involved. There is a facilitator who takes on the administrative tasks for the group. Each member of the group shares their knowledge and experience to the benefit of everyone. 


How to build a mentorship program in a remote workforce

Building a remote mentoring program requires some time and effort, but the steps are clear and easy to follow. Here are the steps you can take to create a mentorship program for your remote workforce. 

Choose a goal for the program and communicate it with participants

Successful mentoring programs begin with defining a goal—both a goal for the program and participants. What are you trying to achieve with your remote mentoring program? Do you need to build a strong team? Are you aiming to develop some of your high potential employees into leaders? Your goals for the mentoring program should be aligned with business goals. 

Next, find out what the mentees hope to gain from the experience. What is the reason they are participating? Are they looking to grow in a particular area? Do they want to expand their network? Introduce them to the SMART goal setting method. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely. It’s key to have mentees write down their goals as it leads to higher achievement rates (42% more likely to be exact). 

Likewise, they can share their goals with their mentors who will them tailor their advice and hold them accountable to those goals.

Pair up employees 

Once you have defined the program and participant goals, it’s time to match mentors and mentees. Finding the right pairing can make or break a mentoring relationship. We recognize this at Together. That’s why our mentoring software allows you to use a customizable pairing algorithm. You’ll be able to use criteria that directly relate to your remote mentoring program. 

How to determine who should be paired with whom. Making the best match is key for employees to get the most out of the experience. When deciding how pairing should work, ask yourself:

  • Which mentor has the skills or experiences that the new employee wants? If a mentee is hoping to gain a new skill, it makes sense to pair them with a mentor who can teach it.  
  • Are there some similarities among participants, such as communication styles, career background, or interests? Having something in common can help a mentor and mentee cultivate a stronger connection. 
  • How can you align expectations on the purpose of the mentoring relationship? Matching a mentor and mentee with the same or similar expectations for the experience can prevent disappointment or a failed pairing. It is one of the keys to building a successful mentoring relationship

To help aid the matching process, give participants the opportunity to have a say in the pairing. For example, allow a mentee to select their match from a handful of potential mentors. 

Provide discussion topics and resources

Help your mentors and mentees get started by providing them with resources like articles, TED talks, discussion topics, and some sample questions to break the ice. At Together, we offer participants template agendas that they can use with our mentoring programs. Sometimes mentorships can get off to an awkward start if they don’t have something to work off of. We’ve found having templated resources are a useful way to help them begin building rapport. 

Likewise, encourage remote mentoring participants to create development plans with each other. Having some ground rules can help guide the mentorship and create appropriate boundaries. Together’s mentoring programs encourage participants to develop a mentoring agreement. This is where both the mentor and mentee agree on things like:

  • Where they’ll meet;
  • How they will prepare for each session;
  • What’s off boundaries for discussion; and that
  • Conversations are confidential.

It is also essential for setting expectations such as who will ask the questions and what mentees expect to learn during the experience. 

Check-in with participants and get feedback

It’s vital to get feedback from participants as it provides insight into what’s working or not. Remote mentoring program managers should connect with participants at the beginning, end and various times through the mentorship program to ensure everything is working out. 

If a problem is identified, be sure to solve it promptly. Fixing issues that come up with pairings, such as a poor pairing or participants’ needing a rematch will keep your remote mentoring program running smoothly and with a good reputation/

Reporting

Tracking and measuring your remote mentoring program is like taking its pulse. If you’re running your program with mentoring software, you can generate reports for company leadership that demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. However you run your program, here are some of the elements you’ll want to report on:

  • Signups - the number of signups for the program will indicate whether there is a demand for remote mentorships. It’s also where employees express their commitment to get involved. 
  • Mentee and mentor goals - mentorships revolve around a mentee’s journey toward their pre-defined goals. If there is no tracking and monitoring along the way, the experience may be ineffective. 
  • Anecdotal feedback - asking for feedback at different stages throughout the process can help give program managers insight into the effectiveness of the remote mentoring program. 
  • Session feedback - Together’s platform prompts mentors and mentees to provide feedback following each session. This feedback can be used as testimonials that reveal what mentors and mentees are getting from the experience. 
  • Business outcomes - It’s crucial to measure how well the program is performing compared to the business objectives that were defined at the outset. Demonstrating progress on these goals will have company leadership committed to the program. 

Using software to run your mentorship program

Remote workplaces are becoming more of the norm than the exception to the rule. While there are advantages to this style of working, some of the challenges include employee engagement and growth. 

Together's software is the best way to run your remote mentoring program. It makes it easy to invite employees to join, create a profile, and match with relevant mentors. You can also manage every relationship giving you key insight into how each employee is developing.

Our platform has won awards for its ease of use. Likewise, we're the most recommended mentoring software by other companies.

Together awarded for best ease of use by Capterra
Together is the most recommended mentorship platform by Software Advice

With a remote mentoring program, your employees will be able to feel more involved with co-workers. It can be great for team building and cultivating camaraderie. And, as with other mentoring programs, remote mentorships allow employees to develop their skills and talents. 

Whether you’re looking to onboard new members to the team, develop your high potential employees or just build a stronger and more cohesive team, Together’s platform is the ideal starting place to develop your remote mentoring program

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