Technology—has it taken over the world?
Kids today are accused of using technology in place of forging face to face relationships. They text and tweet at staggering numbers, and some of us worry that the art of forming relationships is dying with this generation.
But our business, mentoring, is all about relationships—the human touch. Technology, with all its benefits, can never replace the human touch. It can, however, complement your mentoring program.
If you understand your company's mentoring philosophy, know how to choose technology for training, and revisit how your company uses e-mail, you'll have a good handle on what role technology should play in your particular mentoring program and how a mentoring software program like MentoringComplete can help your company.
1. Using Online Mentor Software to Manage Mentoring
When companies are looking for technology to create and manage their mentoring programs, the first question to ask is whether they want a system that is going to help them manage their program (company-managed), or do they want a system that is going to be the program (self-managed).
Self-Managed Mentoring: High-Tech/Low-Touch.
In this system, you give people the technology and tools, and they create, execute, and manage their own mentoring program.
If you're seeking to share knowledge and information in an efficient manner, then a self-managed system is a reasonable consideration. It allows participants to seek out expertise, and the partners can decide for themselves the frequency of contact and the length of their contract. The system creates (or attempts to create) the relationship. It also allows for large numbers of employees to enter the system. While some pairs may develop into a mentoring relationship, the system itself isn't specifically designed for that purpose. Why? Because mentoring involves a long-term relationship and a much deeper commitment (think of the human touch concept mentioned above) from the participants.
If you're looking for a system that would provide an Anytime Mentoring accessibility ("just in time" or "as you need") on a short-term basis to large numbers of employees, then a self-managed system is probably your best option. Just be clear about what you promise so that participants aren't expecting a different kind of relationship or experience.
Company-Managed Mentoring: High-Touch/Low-Tech.
This philosophy, which is what we at Management Mentors believe in, focuses on the personal rather than the technological. While Mentoring Program Managers (MPM) might use technology to assist in managing the programs, they never substitute technology for the work they do in overseeing their matches.
A company-managed system concentrates on the relationship component as opposed to the acquisition of skills/knowledge (which is the purpose of the self-managed system). It assumes that the goal is having a mentoring relationship, not a coaching one, and that the numbers will be finite and limited by the number of MPMs who manage a mentoring program.
Typically, 20 pairs is the maximum number one MPM can handle without using a software system. With a software system, that number can be increased, but it will never match the numbers of a self-managed program. It's not designed to. It's designed to assist an MPM in managing a program that is focused on developing an intimate relationship between mentor and mentoree.
Making a good match in mentoring is the most critical component to success. Our precision matching tool of MentoringComplete asks provides an objective approach to assessing a good match.
In a company-managed system, the oversight of the program always rests with the Mentoring Program Manager (whether internal or external). Thus, someone's always available to assist the mentors and mentorees on any of the issues they encounter.
2. Using Technology to Train People About Mentoring (e-learning)
Online mentoring training programs can be effective tools in helping people understand the dynamics of mentoring and the strategies behind successful mentoring relationships. E-learning, however, does not and cannot replace what happens in a classroom setting. With e-learning, you're learning from a computer as opposed to being engaged in the classroom with other mentors and mentorees. Still, many companies choose e-learning programs because of ease and efficiency, which is understandable. Just remember you lose that important human element. To combat this while still maintaining the ease and efficiency components, consider using a combination of e-learning and classroom instruction. Also, when choosing an e-learning program, make sure the content is based on mentoring, not coaching.
3. Using E-mail Technology
E-mail has its place in mentoring programs, but it should never be the primary mode of communication. Remember, mentoring requires personal engagement, and nothing is more impersonal than e-mail. Use e-mail only for scheduling mentoring meetings and sharing basic thoughts and ideas that you'll discuss in more detail at the meeting.
When it comes to mentoring, technology can't—and shouldn't—replace human interaction. Instead, use technology as a complement to your mentoring program, and, focus on developing a strong mentor/mentoree relationship.