Does proximity get in the way of mentoring?

Remote Year

Gone are the days where teams go where the work is – the office. Work now occurs where your team is – in co-working spaces, cafes, offices in other cities, on long train rides or at home with the kids. 

And it’s not just freelancers and small companies out there taking advantage, 39.3% of remote workers are employed by global companies, according to 2018 study, The Anywhere WorkersAs flexible work is on the rise globally and shifting from being a perk towards the norm, as an organisation there are so many benefits you don’t want to miss out on.

Remote work supports a people-first culture. It encourages diversity and inclusion and embraces different ways of working alongside different people. Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at cloud accounting software company Xero agrees:

“…you enable people who might not otherwise be able to participate in your business, to participate,”
Bindy Edelman, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Xero

Remote mentoring only casts the net wider

Remote mentoring enables employees to maintain strong, productive human relationships with others at the organisation, which is extremely important in maintaining strong company culture – and also in improving the mental health and retention of each and every employee.

Imagine a workforce of diverse cultures, ways of working, experiences and refined skills sharing and supporting one another – sounds like a people-first culture to me.

By mobilising a workforce with different life experience, day-to-day routines and challenges, you create stronger and more engaging integrated team, often with happier workers that probably make better mentors / mentees!

Together with a digital workplace in the era of globalisation, international experience is sought after. Finding a mentor with these qualities can bring a global perspective to your role and help to accelerate your career on the global stage.

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Having worked remotely for over 18 months myself, I looked to the remote community to see how shifting to digital nomad working roles has impacted their mentoring relationships.

Pro digital marketer Katherine Conaway has been working remotely for over four years and fits the bill as both mentor and mentee:

“I think mentorship is really great and important for both parties, and I do believe that it can help diversity and inclusion, whether it’s giving a mentee access to someone like them at another level who can really speak to their specific experience and potential shared challenges, or perhaps helping a mentor understand what other people may be experiencing in their industry / company” Katherine Conaway

But can a remote team have a successful mentoring program?

Do we need to treat remote teams differently? Is ‘virtual mentoring’ a thing?

The short answer is no. The secret ingredients to quality mentoring don’t change when proximity becomes a variable. Mentoring just becomes more valuable.

“Mentoring is especially beneficial for remote workers of global teams to help them stay connected to someone at the company who can be both a voice for them and guide them.”
Katherine Conaway

In conjunction with offering flexible working arrangements, enabling participation in a quality mentoring program only compounds the benefits and sets your organisation apart as a people-first, culture-driven organisation.

We recently spoke with Founder of online organisation ‘Women Offshore’ Ally Cedeno, who is supporting a growing diverse workforce of women from around the globe.

“I think the biggest surprise has been women signing up who I’ve never met. They’re from other parts of the world. They’re so far outside my personal loop. And they signed up right away. Women from Greece, Africa, all over! I’m just truly honoured that they want to give it a try and touch another woman’s career and help her along her way. I’m surprised by our reach and that so many women want to be involved. There’s literally a hunger for this, I love it. I’m hungry for it too – it’s just great.” – Ally Cedeno, Women Offshore.

Need some extra help? Here are two easy ways to ensure you have a thriving virtual mentoring program:

Get in formation

Structure. Your remote team already has this in the bag. Flexible working often means more structure, rather than less. Varied work patterns or time zones are challenging for all globalised teams, so if your people are performing well under these conditions already, chances are they have perfected, the art of scheduling.

Encourage employees to make time for remote mentoring, like any other work-related ticket item is done by setting up a drumbeat of recurring catch-ups and discovering that sweet spot between overly casual and overly engineered.

Stop, collaborate and listen

Collaboration tools. Your organisation is highly likely to already use one or more of these, even in the same building or open-plan office – Slack, Skype or Trello, whatever your weapon of choice. Remote teams simply force us to be selective of these tools and more accurately assess the purpose and use of each channel. 44% of remote workers claim that real-time communication tools such as these, are most vital for helping them stay connected, and an amazing 92% of workers say that video collaboration actually improves their teamwork.

We’ve helped a number of clients successfully implement a mentoring program that spans across remote teams. See how we can help your organisation and book a demo now.

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Em is our Marketing Manager at Mentorloop. That's a lot of 'm's! | She is passionate about crafting messages, crafternoons and craft beer.

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