Mentoring Virtually in a Teleworking Environment
For many organizations, teleworking has become the norm. As a matter of fact, a recent Gallop poll found that the number of employees that telework (at least a few days a week) has climbed to 37%. This trend however, should not deter anyone from engaging in a mentoring relationship with a teleworker. There are actually a couple of benefits. For one, many teleworkers are assigned to the same site as their mentoring partner and are often on-site a few times a week therefore creating an opportunity to meet face-to-face. In addition, teleworking partnerships save over 2 hours commuting to and from work which allows them more time to devote to the mentoring relationship and associated learning activities.
Mentoring in a teleworking environment, takes careful coordination and a strong commitment to the program. The following are a few tips for making the most of your teleworking mentoring partnership:
§ Find a local place to meet. If you happen to be located in close proximity to your mentoring partner, plan to meet for lunch at a local café or after hours at a nearby coffee shop. Make it a point to schedule in advance set times to meet.
§ Connect with social media. There are a number of social media outlets that can keep you updated with your mentoring partner. LinkedIn, Meetup and Data.com Connect are just a few. These sites also allow you to connect with others in your industry to share ideas and get feedback.
§ Take advantage of phone apps. FaceTime, Skype and ooVoo are free apps to help you meet face-to-face. Virtual meetings – even over lunch are a great way to stay connected.
§ Set shared expectations of when and how often you will connect. Take special care when outlining your mentoring agreement. Carefully assess commitments and schedules ahead of time to avoid conflicting expectations.
§ Come to meetings prepared. Both partners should be prepared with a list of items, questions and topics to be discussed. This will help to preclude any awkward lapses in the conversation.
§ Take part in all of the mentoring events. Encourage your mentoring partner to attend all events (Forums, Mid-point Energizer and End of Program Celebration) either in-person or virtually when available. This will promote a sense of inclusion with not only your mentoring partner but the entire cohort.
§ Explore ways in which you can collaborate.Perhaps you both share a similar area of expertise. You may want to consider co-authoring a white paper. Or if your mentee has planned to give a briefing or presentation, you may want to provide to preview it and offer feedback.
§ Be mindful of schedules and time zones. Use the appropriate methods of communication for the time of day you are communicating. For example, if you have a question for your mentoring partner who is three hours behind in their time zone, wait to send that text or email until later that day.
§ Make an effort to consistently communicate with other participants in the cohort. This will allow for feeling more included in the program. It will also serve to expand networks which can be critical for teleworkers.
§ Keep supervisor informed of mentoring meetings and activities. This is particularity important for the remote worker. Keeping the supervisor in the loop about all program aspects will help alleviate conflicts with deadlines and mistaken perceptions.
ASK A MENTOR
In many ways, mentoring virtually in a teleworking environment is quite similar to a long distance mentoring partnership. Both mentoring partners will need to plan ahead and be creative with the wide array of technology available to them to get and stay connected. The next time you meet with your mentoring partner, plan to discuss how you will plan for a successful teleworking mentoring relationship:
o What will be the best times of day to connect?
§ Are there any time zone issues?
o What technology is easiest for both of us to use to connect?
o Are we both local?
§ Where are some places we can meet up either during lunch or after hours?
o Do we have similar expertise in any area that would allow us to collaborate?
o Will we be able to attend all of the workshops and forums?
§ If not, how can we brief each other on these events?