Mentoring in 2021 –
Is your program future fit?


Is your mentoring program future fit?

2021 is well underway and our Covid-friendly Christmas and NYE celebrations feel like a distant memory. But many are still planning their employee engagement and development strategies for 2021 and beyond. 

2020 saw both our personal and professional lives change in unprecedented ways, and now looking to the future looks considerably different than it did this time last year. In the past year we’ve embraced a more digital life, took a stand against inequality and in many ways, accepted that the younger generations have a lot to teach us about living in a modern world. 

So, do you think your existing mentoring program is future fit? Will it stand up to any more unprecedented challenges we face in the coming years? Here’s some of the areas we think you should consider when future-proofing your mentoring programs:

Virtual mentoring 

Unsurprisingly, virtual mentoring is at the top of our ‘future fit’ list. Organisations around the world adopted remote working when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and very few have returned to the office since. But this shouldn’t mean the end to your mentoring programs, it’s just time to adapt. 

Successful virtual mentoring relies heavily on an effective remote workplace culture. And developing this requires facilitation to ensure your people are comfortable reaching out, chatting and building relationships virtually. This can come in many guises, such as:

  • Ensuring the right communication technology exists in your company
  • Encouraging communication between colleagues (as they once would have around the office watercooler) 
  • Promoting a knowledge-sharing environment, openly connecting people when they have something to contribute (or learn!)

If your current mentoring program relies on face-to-face interaction, have a look at the areas above, and consider how you can create a welcoming, virtual environment for both mentors and mentees to flourish. This will future-proof your mentoring program and ensure its on-going success, no matter how long we’re working from home for!

Diversity, equity & inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have been rising up the priority list for organisations in recent years. However, its importance has skyrocketed as 2020 opened our eyes to the sheer imbalance in our world and the importance of equity. A future-proofed mentoring program will have DEI at its heart, for two very important reasons.

One of the biggest challenges organisations are looking to overcome with DEI policies lies with the ‘e’ – equity. And the first step to achieving equity is deeply understanding your people, and enabling them to understand one another. This is a key reason your mentoring program should have DEI at its heart, because mentoring is a great way to facilitate bringing together people from different backgrounds or cultures and driving a conversation between them. Enabling them to learn from one another, fostering a deep understanding of the challenges the other faces, and in turn, understanding the importance of equity in organisations. 

Secondly, implementation of DEI policies and procedures involves your people speaking up, when they feel under-represented, unfairly treated or disadvantaged in some way. But, this courage doesn’t come naturally to all. As such, mentoring programs can also create a safe, trusting environment for your people to vocalise any problems they may be facing in the workplace, to their mentor. Who can then facilitate the all-important feedback loop to decision makers – who can take action to overcome the situation at hand.

Reverse mentoring

‘Future fit’ mentoring programs debunk the age-old thought process that mentoring programs are linear, with the mentee learning heaps of valuable information from their mentor. But we are entering a unique stage in time, where younger generations are digital natives, and can master new digital skills faster than their older counterparts. Therefore creating an environment where the mentee can help their mentor, just as much as the mentor can help them.

2020 was the year that forced us to embrace technology to keep in touch with our loved ones – even pensioners who had never used Zoom in their lives, used the platform to facilitate their social lives. But this push to a digital world wasn’t a shock for the younger generation, such as millennials or Gen Z-ers, who had been chatting, face-timing and instant messaging their friends for years. So this led to one inevitable outcome, the younger generations teaching the older generations how to use the tech. And although this example isn’t from the workplace, there are many workplace situations that our tech-savvy junior team members can help others upskill more quickly – leading to increased productivity all round.  

So as we continue to adapt our working styles, it’s more than likely that we’ll introduce new tech to streamline these processes. So future-proof your mentoring program by welcoming and encouraging reverse mentoring in your organisation, allowing mentors to lean on their mentee for help with those tech-savvy skills when they need them.

Proving return on investment

The impact of the coronavirus crisis didn’t just result in social distancing and lockdowns, it also had a huge impact on the economy, and in turn, organisations are feeling the pinch. So now more than ever, we’ll be asked to prove the return on the time and money invested in our people development and mentoring programs. But when it comes to mentoring, proving ROI isn’t as easy as “we invested £1m and we got £5m back” (although that would be a lovely return on investment, wouldn’t it?) 

With mentoring we need to think about how the program impacts your people, and in turn makes them more productive, efficient and expert in their roles. For example, you should demonstrate how your mentoring program fosters:

  • Improved talent retention and mobility
  • An enhanced culture and positive employee experience 
  • Efficient upskilling

However you demonstrate it, now is the time to prove the worth of your mentoring program, and foster internal support for its existence. Thus protecting the program if there are any looming budget cuts heading your way.

A future-proofed mentoring program

It’s safe to say that 2020 changed our workplace forever. Our arm was twisted and we have been forced to embrace new ways of working, and in turn, our mentoring programs need to adapt and change. By integrating, or at least considering, the areas above into your mentoring program, you’ll be well on your way to a future fit mentoring program, that will benefit both your people and organisation alike. 

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