What is Modern Mentoring?

What is modern mentoring?
Modern mentoring goes beyond the traditional one-to-one mentoring model that pairs a senior member of the organization with a junior member. Instead, modern mentoring encompasses a wide variety of models and philosophies, such as reverse mentoring, speed mentoring, and situational mentoring (just to name a few).

Technology often plays a role in modern mentoring. For example, a mentor and mentoree might meet via Skype. The rules are often more casual as well. In a traditional one-to-one model, mentors and mentorees meet weekly or bi-weekly, in person, for nine to 12 months. In modern mentoring models, the mentoring is often completed more quickly, sometimes even within a couple of hours.

Why the shift?
The biggest reason for the shift has to do with Millennials. Bloomberg Businessweek published an article in March 2013 called "The Misery of Mentoring Millennials." While we don't think the title is productive to the conversation, the article made some valid points, including the fact that this younger generation favors a team approach. Instead of seeking one person to guide her on her career path, the Millennial worker prefers having a group of people to turn to, choosing the person who best fits whatever scenario she's dealing with in that particular moment.

The article goes on to note that members of the younger workforce gravitate towards more egalitarian forms of mentoring as well, where everyone is considered equal rather than senior or junior. They also prefer conducting these mentoring moments in more casual settings, including virtual ones.

Read more about this important topic in our free white paper, How to Mentor Millennials.

So has the essence of mentoring itself changed?
That's an interesting question. We've always maintained that a true mentoring relationship is one that's transformative both personally and professionally for the mentoree and quite often the mentor. Thus, the reason why we developed programs that last 9-12 months. Because transformation needs time to happen, right? At least, that's what we always thought.

Now the question becomes this: can transformation happen over shorter time frames, like a month or even an afternoon? Many Millennials would say yes. And even we acknowledge that spending an afternoon or a couple of days under the gaze of a dynamic person can be transformative (anyone who has attended a compelling TED talk would likely agree as well).

So here's our answer: mentoring is still all about fostering personal and professional transformation. So, no—the essence of mentoring has NOT changed. But how and when that transformation takes place is evolving.

Should I change the name of our program to "modern mentoring program"?
That depends. If your organization is seeing an influx of Millennials, making the shift to modern mentoring might make sense. New recruits might find the fact you have a modern mentoring program to be a big selling point. But you need to be prepared to walk the walk. Simply relabeling a traditional program as a modern mentoring program won't work. You need to start offering other mentoring models that are actually modern.

That said, it's unlikely you refer to your traditional program as a "traditional mentoring program," right? You probably just call it the mentoring program. To us, it's more important to focus on the makeup of your program or programs than it is to worry about labels.

How will I know if and when my organization should start offering modern mentoring models?
Ask yourself these questions on a regular basis:

  • How successful is our current program? Have we seen an increase, decrease, or lull in interest?
  • What's the current demographic breakdown in the organization? How many Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials do we have? What's the forecast for the next 3-5 years?
  • What are people asking for? Have we been hearing people talk about the need to "share knowledge," for example? If yes, then situational mentoring (we call it Anytime Mentoring) might make sense.
  • What are the exit surveys revealing? Do people who complete the traditional model ever complain about the length or wish that the mentoring could be reduced to, say, three months instead of 12?

If you pay attention, you'll see signs when you need to make the shift to a modern mentoring environment. And the truth is, over the next five years, more and more organizations will be making this shift.

How can I add these different models? What do I need to do? What resources are there?
Companies that provide mentoring solutions (like ours) will continue to expand offerings and make upgrades to existing software to accommodate modern models. For example, our mentoring solution, MentoringComplete, supports four different types of mentoring: one-to-one, group, self-directed, and hybrid models. And you can add on Anytime Mentoring, which is our solution for situational mentoring/knowledge share.

Within our mentoring solutions, you can support other models. For example, with reverse mentoring, you match a junior employee who mentors a senior employee in something like social media. We can support reverse mentoring through Anytime Mentoring and even in MentoringComplete.

Speaking of MentoringComplete, we're excited to announce a fresh look and feel in addition to several new features. Interested in checking it out? Schedule a demo and experience the power of MentoringComplete firsthand.

And, of course, if you have any questions about modern mentoring, let us know. We'd be happy to help you brainstorm how to create a modern mentoring program or expand your traditional one.

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