E-mentoring has been defined as a means of providing a guided mentoring relationship using online software or email. It began to gain popularity around 1993 as the use of the Internet continued to grow. It was seen as another way of providing mentoring to a technology savvy audience.
Also read: Mentoring in the Digital Age
E-mentoring participants can share networks and resources with minimal effort. E-mentoring provides a means to effectively track the mentorship as it progresses. All history of communication is in one place and accessible to both mentor and mentee at any time. In this sense, e-mentoring allows a mentorship to be even more “live” than traditional mentoring.
“The drawbacks of e-mentoring are few, but they must be considered when implementing a new mentoring program. By its very nature, e-mentoring requires both mentors and mentees to have easy access to technology, such as a computer or lap top, a reliable Internet connection, and a means of communication, like a mentoring platform, email service, or video conferencing program. Access to these components is growing around the world, but their necessity can still present a challenge to some people.”
E-mentoring does not appeal to everyone. E-mentoring requires a certain level of self-direction that can be difficult for employees who are used to receiving instruction and having their work planned out for them. E-mentoring—and traditional mentoring, too requires active participation from both mentor and mentee, and ensuring there a high level of engagement should always be a primary goal with any mentoring relationship.”
E-mentoring in its purest form requires the support of a technology platform. Organizations are advised to research the various technology solutions that are in the market to ensure they find the right fit for their organization and vision for mentoring. All too often we see a technology solution that is provided as the solution to a yet defined business problem. I often use the phrase, “here is the solution, now tell me the problem” rather than a more business focused response that says, “Let’s determine the problem and then find the right solution!”
E-mentoring can be done without the technology platform but would be challenging in an organizational concept. I use various technology mediums to mentor people globally and do not have a mentoring software solution in place. On an individual basis this works for me but if done in a larger context it would likely be more prudent to have a mentoring software solution in place.
One of the most important if not the most important success elements is the provision of training. E-mentoring does require a different skill set. Your effective communication skills need to be operating at a very high level. Active listening is crucial as you do not have the benefit of an in person, face to face conversation. Various nuances such as body language, voice fluctuations, eye contact and others are leveraged more often in an in person meeting versus one where there is a geographical separation between the mentor and mentee. Training is paramount in an e-mentoring program.
If you have reached that fork in the road where you are considering implementing a mentorship program remember that each organization is unique and the program that you do implement should be specific to your organization. It is not a slam dunk. Your employees are unique individuals and your mentorship program should be as well. Perhaps you may want to explore a blend of e-mentoring and traditional mentoring. Make sure that you involve your employees in the analysis of where you want to go. They are the people that will gain the most from this journey whether as a mentor or mentee.
E-mentoring can and will work but it does require a unique skill set in order to optimize the outcomes. Take the time to ensure that it is customized to your organization. Embrace “The Gift of Mentoring” – “can you afford not to?”
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