Between Blackberrys and iPhones, texting and Facebook, and the 24/7 world in which we live, so much of business—and what business people do—happens online. So it makes sense if you or your organization is considering taking your mentoring program online. After all, who wants a program that screams 1999?
At the same time, getting buy-in from upper management is not always easy. While mentoring software saves money over the long run, it is an up-front investment and some corporations might be reluctant to invest in what it perceives to simply be "bells and whistles." What you need is evidence to overcome this objection. In this blog post, we'll share the five main benefits of having an online mentoring system and how those benefits can affect your organization's bottom line.
1. Streamlines Program Management
One of the main differences between a formal and informal mentoring program is oversight. Informal programs are more autonomous, where the mentors and mentorees make their own decisions regarding their relationships. Formal programs, on the other hand, have program managers. These program managers ensure compliance with program guidelines, serve as a resource and sounding board to pairs, respond to issues, and initiate new pairs into the program. The program manager, in essence, juggles many balls. Now picture these balls spread out over several floors of a building, over several states, or even over several continents.
The beauty of an online system is that it streamlines the program manager's tasks. Does Program Manager Joe, who's based in Boston, need to check to see if the newest mentoring pairs in Detroit have filled out their initial forms? No problem. He can log on and with a few clicks of the mouse see the pairs' progress. Does Joe need to run a report on the number of returning mentors? Done. Or maybe Joe is getting ready to match his new group of mentors and mentorees. He can do it all, as long as he has access to an Internet browser, from his office, his home, even the airport. This ease of, well, everything helps Joe save time, and we all know what that means. Saved time translates into saved money.
2. Connects Remote Workforces
Home offices, branch offices, satellite offices, headquarters—we work in an era where the reach of so many companies goes well beyond a town, a city, a state, or even a country. More and more organizations offer telecommuting options, and some people can work for months without being in the same room as other members of the team.
How can a company possibly bridge this gap with its corporate mentoring program? It can't, at least not with programs circa 1990. But thanks to the Internet and everyone's easy access to web browsers, an online mentoring program can help cultivate that all-important (and effective) mentoring culture, even if people are spread out.
An online mentoring system allows people in remote workforces to:
• Take part in a formal mentoring program when they might not have been able to do so otherwise
• Have the ability to easily communicate with the program manager—no more wondering who to call with a question or issue
• Track their progress and easily review guidelines/objectives
• Communicate with other program participants through things like online forums, online chats, and social media that's integrated with the software
An online system helps ensure that as many people as possible—even those in far-flung places can take part. This increases the likelihood that you'll have happier, more committed employees, which results in decreased turnover, decreased recruitment costs, and decreased training costs.
3. Provides a Green Solution
A formal mentoring program requires numerous supporting documents, from questionnaires to evaluations to custom notes from your organization. Instead of disseminating information through inter-office mail or email, your online mentoring solution serves as a repository for any and all documents associated with your program. No more wasted paper, toner, and time! Modify documents easily. Alert people about changes. Easily upload and brand new documents. Protect the environment. And save on office supplies while you're at it.
4. Ensures Consistency in Goals
If program participants did things "on their own" without knowing for sure if the goals and objectives they were pursuing were the ones the organization wanted to focus on, what would the point be in that? This sort of willy-nilly approach might work for some individual pairs, but if the organization wants to reach certain benchmarks across all programs, the only way to do that is to make sure all participants are on the same proverbial page. Or in this case, the same virtual page.
Having one central location for all program participants to virtually congregate is essential to maintaining a core message and achieving collective goals. The beauty of this is that an online system doesn't hinder individual objectives. It simply ensures that the organization's goals aren't overlooked.
Use your online mentoring software to:
• Reinforce your organization's mission through the objectives and guideline documents used for mentoring
• Share success stories about other pairs along the way, thus highlighting the program's effectiveness and showing your organization's commitment to nurturing talent
• Share information about mentoring in general as a source of encouragement
5. Has "Headroom" Adaptability
Just a few short years ago, Twitter didn't exist and Facebook wasn't the juggernaut it is today. While your online mentoring software doesn't need to integrate every new trend, the best system will allow for headroom: the ability for it to grow with your organization and add innovative plug-ins that make sense to the people participating.
For example, a company that has multiple branches throughout the world might want to have a blog devoted solely to those people who participate in the program. Or perhaps, you want to integrate video or online tutorials. A system that has plenty of headroom would likely be able to accommodate this added functionality easily and for reasonable costs. The sky is really the limit when you use online mentoring software.
Remember, an online mentoring system will save you money over time, but it is an up-front investment. As a result, it's critical that you research and demo different systems to find the right fit for your organization's needs. If you feel that your organization needs a mentoring program, but aren't sure where to do next, check out our FREE white paper by clicking the button below to learn about how to set up an effective program.Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com