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2020 has forever marked our way of living and working. In an ever-changing world of work, the success of our organizations depends on its employees and our ability to engage and retain them. Faced with more isolated, stressed, and overworked employees, many organizations have turned to mentoring to continue supporting their teams to stay engaged and connected from a distance. How will this form of support evolve in 2021 to meet the growing needs of organizations?
In this article, the Elo team has compiled the major trends in the world of workplace mentoring for the year 2021. Find out how to take full advantage of a mentoring program that will help create a more humane and connected workplace.
Although mentoring has long been seen as a tool for large companies, it has made a significant contribution in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Thanks to the many forms and possibilities of mentoring, this practice can easily be adapted to the needs of SMEs, which favour a more flexible and situational form of mentoring. The situational mentoring approach allows mentees to benefit from the guidance of a mentor on more immediate and specific needs. Mentoring flexibility is one of the most relevant in the world of SMEs, where everything is constantly evolving!
In addition, a mentoring program is a real asset for SMEs since it allows them to face various challenges such as a shortage of qualified labour, limited opportunities for skills development within small teams, high turnover rates, etc. With the help of a mentoring program, SMEs can establish a learning culture where it is easier to develop the talent and skills they need directly in-house. A practice that encourages leaders to invest in their employees and their well-being, rather than spending money on recruiting new ones.
Although the pandemic is not yet over, it has already led to some changes in the world of work that are likely to continue. Consider the new trend of Work From Anywhere, which offers workers geographic flexibility to work where they are most productive. With this trend growing in popularity, virtual mentoring has been able to meet the needs of organizations looking for solutions to maintain knowledge transfer at a distance and wishing to support the professional development and commitment of their teams in a personalized and human way. Not to mention that existing traditional mentoring programs had to go digital during the pandemic in order to continue to be accessible. If such a shift is possible, it is thanks to everyday tools such as e-mail, videoconferencing (Zoom, Teams), text messaging or even digital mentoring solutions designed to simplify the deployment and management of a mentoring program.
This era of virtual mentoring is also gaining in popularity as new generations enter the workforce. According to The Globe And Mail, these generations are advocating a more egalitarian form of mentoring where traditional roles are used less and the framework is much more flexible and rapid. Formal mentoring programs are often associated with a certain heaviness, and can hardly involve more than 30 dyads per year, and matches are often restricted to the geographic location of participants. On the contrary, technology facilitates the networking of participants, promotes an equal relationship between mentor and mentee, the autonomy of participants, and the response to needs is personalized and immediate (or almost). It therefore seems natural to consider its use for mentoring in 2021.
Mentoring is more than just a program. To feel the benefits, organizations can benefit by integrating the practice into their organizational culture. Why is mentoring important? When mentoring is part of a company’s culture, it conveys fundamental values that are necessary for the smooth functioning of a team: mutual aid, collaboration, development and open-mindedness. Indeed, according to Forbes, a mentoring culture fosters the construction of organic collaborative networks created by an organization’s employees.
In order to achieve such benefits, we need to move away from overly structured and restrictive mentoring programs to a more flexible, informal and accessible form of mentoring. The idea is to develop a culture where mentoring is offered to all employees and everyone can be mentored and/or mentored. A culture where employees are encouraged to ask questions and develop mentoring relationships organically, simply because it is valued by the organization. According to The Globe And Mail, “One of the biggest pitfalls of mentoring programs is their excessive structure, which includes pre-established matching arrangements and time constraints that often seem artificial and arbitrary. “Organizations should therefore take full advantage of this form of coaching by building a real culture of accessible mentoring.
In order to give the best of themselves to their mentee, mentors need training. Contrary to what one might think, a research project carried out by Étienne St-Jean and Stéphanie Mitrano-Méda of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières shows that being a good mentor can be learned in training, and not only by being a mentor. The experience acquired by the mentor can be treacherous. According to research, the more a mentor accompanies mentees, the less beneficial his or her intervention is, since he or she becomes overconfident and less attentive. The remedy? Training, of course. It promotes the development of the mentor’s interpersonal skills, which contribute to improving the quality of the relationship with the mentee.
Also, a study by Professor David Clutterbuck on the reasons for the failure of a mentoring program presents impressive data on the impacts of training on the success of mentoring relationships. Training of mentors and mentees increased the success rate of mentoring relationships from 30% to over 90%. With training, organizations can ensure that mentors and mentees are ready, confident and motivated to foster the development of other employees. They will be able to better understand their role and thus be able to make the most of this development opportunity. Whether we’re talking about initial training for participants or in-service training in a mentoring program, this can be done in many ways: webinars, co-development between mentors and mentees, role-playing, blog posts, virtual learning paths (such as Mentorat Québec’s virtual learning path during Mentoring Month 2021), and so on.
In addition to the pandemic and teleworking, the hot topic in organizations in 2020 has been diversity and inclusion. A topic that quickly positioned itself as a priority for human resources (HR) professionals in 2021, and rightly so. Numerous studies show that inclusive teams are more engaged and productive, as well as being a significant factor in the professional development of all employees, especially those from diverse backgrounds. Not to mention that diverse teams generate 20-30% more revenue than less diverse organizations and teams. In recent years, mentoring has positioned itself as a significant tool for fostering diversity and inclusion within an organization. According to this article from Elo‘s blog, American studies have even shown that mentoring has more positive results than other diversity initiatives, such as training and targeted recruitment, in promoting diversity.
The success of such an initiative lies in the specific training and support offered to coordinators, mentors and mentees. Indeed, the mentoring program should not simply be labelled as a diversity and inclusion strategy. In addition to basic mentoring training, mentoring programs will also need to provide additional training on a variety of key diversity and inclusion themes to coordinators, mentors and mentees. Such training could, for example, include cultural, racial and gender awareness, practicing communication skills in cross-cultural contexts, and understanding cultural and gender biases. By being trained on diversity and inclusion, mentors and mentees will be able to develop a successful mentoring relationship based on authenticity and trust.
All of these trends draw a clear line for the future of mentoring: this practice will become a priority within organizations in 2021 to support learning, knowledge transfer, mobilization and employee engagement. Fostered by technology, democratization will be a real asset for this ever-evolving practice. Let’s promote access to mentoring for all, in a simplified manner.
Interested in starting a virtual mentoring program? Discover Elo, the turnkey mentoring platform that allows organizations to easily launch and manage a mentoring program. With more than 20 years of experience in the world of mentoring, our experts are there to help you every step of the way in setting up your program. In addition, program coordinators, mentors and mentees benefit from personalized coaching.