How to Build a Mentoring Program for Hybrid Work Environments

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
August 13, 2022


On the whole, remote and hybrid workers are enthusiastic about remote work — whether that’s full time or a few days per week. The benefits include the opportunity to work from anywhere, flexible hours, and reduced or no commute. 

But where remote work can falter is in fostering connection among employees and company leaders. Interpersonal connections, on both personal and professional levels, are critical for building company culture and forging employee relationships. Without the four walls of an office, some organizations have struggled to connect employees and according to HBR, their networks have shrunk by 19% since 2019.

Formalized mentorship programs that leverage technology is one way companies are tackling the lack of connection that comes from decentralized offices and workforces. Not only does mentorship upskill mentees, but structured programs create vital people and information sharing networks across the company. 

Creating a virtual mentoring program that caters to remote and hybrid workers doesn’t have to be hard if you have the right program and tools. We’ve listed a few steps to get you started. 

What are the benefits of a mentorship program?

Let’s go back in time to grade school for a moment. Remember learning about positive, symbiotic relationships among animals of different species? The common example illustrated in textbooks was birds and zebras. Birds of a certain species would peck at bugs who landed on the zebras and use them as food. Zebras, in turn, became pest-free. This interaction sustained each animal in two unique ways. 

Mentorship works the same way. When two people, usually one more junior than the other, come together to share ideas and ask/answer questions, new information and perspectives are shared, enriching both halves of the duo.  

Mentees, through connections with their mentors and guidance from your organization, can: 

  • Gain new skills and insights
  • Cultivate a larger professional network
  • Learn what it takes to succeed and progress within your organization
  • Develop a better understanding of the working world and their place in it

In exchange for sharing expertise and experience, mentors can:

  • Gain a new perspective within their fields by interacting with newer or prospective colleagues
  • Add to their existing professional network
  • Learn about issues they may not be privy to in a leadership position
  • Improve the skills and knowledge of the employees within their organization

We can also consider how the animal kingdom — or organization as a whole — benefits from these exchanges. By creating a remote mentoring experience that is truly engaging and effective, organizations can:

  • Develop talent, typically in leadership, management, and functional realms
  • Increase and improve employee engagement and reduce turnover
  • Create an in-house culture of communication, knowledge sharing and skills building
  • Onboard new hires and give them a direct point of contact they can call on for support

When you help your employees improve their futures, you’re setting everyone — your company included — up for greater success going forward.

6 steps to build a remote mentoring program with flexible workers in mind

Building a mentoring program is more than just matching more experienced employees with less experienced ones — especially when you’re matching distributed employees across the country (or world) in different time zones. 

1. Define your program’s goals 

The goals you create will need to be specific and relevant to your organization’s needs because with clear objectives in place, you can craft a stronger, more targeted mentorship program. If your organization has certain objectives in place, like better connecting remote and hybrid workers, define what this looks like. One example is to create more cross-department functionality by having the mentor introduce the mentee to new coworkers and broaden their internal network. 

The SMART goal model is a tried-and-true method for creating relevant goals. Using this framework, your goals should be:

  • Specific — Name what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. 
  • Measurable You should be able to quantify some part of your goal in order to track progress.
  • Achievable — Reaching this goal should be realistic in the time frame you decide upon. Moonshot goals might be temporarily motivating, but you’ll likely end up discouraged in the long run.
  • Relevant — Your goals should line up with your company’s goals. Improving employee engagement, for example, could align with your company’s overall goals of winning a “Best Place to Work” award or improving your average reviews score on sites like Glassdoor.
  • Time-bound — Deadlines will help you create a realistic timeline to achieve your goals.

Your program can also speak to weak spots that human resources or other departments have identified. Whether it’s smoother onboarding, turnover reduction, or encouraging general skills sharing, defining the “why” behind your program will help it succeed. 

It could also encourage participation from your employees. With a better understanding of the purpose behind the program, they’ll also better understand the benefits of why they should participate.

2. Make flexibility the basis of the program 

To cater to both remote, in-person and hybrid working arrangements, the foundation of your program should be digital. That means matches, introductions, and meetings are done using technology. But if the two paired employees happen to be in the same hybrid office, build in the flexibility to allow them to meet in person. 

A set curriculum for mentors and mentees can help move conversations and goals forward. Weekly topics and conversation starters can enrich the information shared and make for a more information-rich session. 

3. Use employee goals and interests as your primary matching criteria, but consider time zones

Ideally, mentees and mentors will have compatible goals that will make each person feel like they’re getting something out of your program. Using these compatible goals to create mentor-mentee matches will encourage participation and enable strong relationships. 

Ten Thousand Coffees’ (10KC) Smart-Match algorithm pairs employees based on their interests and goals without biases.

If you have a lot of program participants, creating these matches manually via spreadsheets and long meetings can be overwhelming.

Using a mentorship software like 10KC can help pair employees quickly with intelligent goal-based algorithms. Our platform also allows you to set restrictions on the matches, with one critical one being that the mentor and mentee must be within two or three time zones of each other. This is important for organizations with a global employee base who rely on remote work like Nike. Mentors need to be available to handle their mentees’ questions and concerns outside of their designated time to meet, so people with little overlap or flexibility during the work day aren’t suitable matches. 

4. Match mentees with more than one mentor

A robust network of mentors and peers helps build your career over time. A mentor’s expertise has the power to change the trajectory of a mentee’s path to success. Especially for new employees or interns, connecting mentees with more than one mentor can: 

  • Help them grow their skill sets
  • Give them a better idea of how they want to develop their own careers
  • Introduce them to different teams and departments to develop a better understanding of how your company works
  • Experience diverse ideas and viewpoints … no one person has all the answers!

For all participants, connecting with more than one person helps them to grow their professional network. And cultivating more connections within your organization helps to encourage cross-team collaboration and communication.

10KC can help define rules for matching employees to each other to create optimal connections with multiple colleagues.

5. Gather and act on feedback throughout the duration of the program 

Don’t wait until your program wraps up to survey participants. 

A pre-program survey paired with a post-completion survey can help you measure progress. However, feedback gathered while your program is still running can help you course correct issues as they occur.

A mentorship platform gives HR teams real-time data in a centralized spot about how their program is going and what type of connections employees are making. No more manual follow-ups or meetings are needed to get a sentiment on how the program is going.

6. Offer frequent nudges and check-ins

A mentoring platform like 10KC’s will keep mentors and mentees on track by sending invitations to meet, offering emails nudging participants to connect when it’s been a while, and automatically sending surveys to collect information on how the relationship is progressing. Integrations with digital messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams help bolster the connections, too. 

This is one aspect where systemized mentorship has a big advantage over traditional, informal mentorship. In the past, mentors and mentees were paired, and it was up to them to meet as necessary. With a platform like 10KC in place, mentorship can be structured so that outcomes can be measured and consistent goals can be achieved. 

Are you ready to start a remote mentoring program that will wow mentors and mentees?

Schedule a demo today to learn more about how 10KC can help you create a flexible mentorship program that caters to global, distributed workforces and keeps coworkers connected.

Webinar

How to Build a Mentoring Program for Hybrid Work Environments


On the whole, remote and hybrid workers are enthusiastic about remote work — whether that’s full time or a few days per week. The benefits include the opportunity to work from anywhere, flexible hours, and reduced or no commute. 

But where remote work can falter is in fostering connection among employees and company leaders. Interpersonal connections, on both personal and professional levels, are critical for building company culture and forging employee relationships. Without the four walls of an office, some organizations have struggled to connect employees and according to HBR, their networks have shrunk by 19% since 2019.

Formalized mentorship programs that leverage technology is one way companies are tackling the lack of connection that comes from decentralized offices and workforces. Not only does mentorship upskill mentees, but structured programs create vital people and information sharing networks across the company. 

Creating a virtual mentoring program that caters to remote and hybrid workers doesn’t have to be hard if you have the right program and tools. We’ve listed a few steps to get you started. 

What are the benefits of a mentorship program?

Let’s go back in time to grade school for a moment. Remember learning about positive, symbiotic relationships among animals of different species? The common example illustrated in textbooks was birds and zebras. Birds of a certain species would peck at bugs who landed on the zebras and use them as food. Zebras, in turn, became pest-free. This interaction sustained each animal in two unique ways. 

Mentorship works the same way. When two people, usually one more junior than the other, come together to share ideas and ask/answer questions, new information and perspectives are shared, enriching both halves of the duo.  

Mentees, through connections with their mentors and guidance from your organization, can: 

  • Gain new skills and insights
  • Cultivate a larger professional network
  • Learn what it takes to succeed and progress within your organization
  • Develop a better understanding of the working world and their place in it

In exchange for sharing expertise and experience, mentors can:

  • Gain a new perspective within their fields by interacting with newer or prospective colleagues
  • Add to their existing professional network
  • Learn about issues they may not be privy to in a leadership position
  • Improve the skills and knowledge of the employees within their organization

We can also consider how the animal kingdom — or organization as a whole — benefits from these exchanges. By creating a remote mentoring experience that is truly engaging and effective, organizations can:

  • Develop talent, typically in leadership, management, and functional realms
  • Increase and improve employee engagement and reduce turnover
  • Create an in-house culture of communication, knowledge sharing and skills building
  • Onboard new hires and give them a direct point of contact they can call on for support

When you help your employees improve their futures, you’re setting everyone — your company included — up for greater success going forward.

6 steps to build a remote mentoring program with flexible workers in mind

Building a mentoring program is more than just matching more experienced employees with less experienced ones — especially when you’re matching distributed employees across the country (or world) in different time zones. 

1. Define your program’s goals 

The goals you create will need to be specific and relevant to your organization’s needs because with clear objectives in place, you can craft a stronger, more targeted mentorship program. If your organization has certain objectives in place, like better connecting remote and hybrid workers, define what this looks like. One example is to create more cross-department functionality by having the mentor introduce the mentee to new coworkers and broaden their internal network. 

The SMART goal model is a tried-and-true method for creating relevant goals. Using this framework, your goals should be:

  • Specific — Name what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. 
  • Measurable You should be able to quantify some part of your goal in order to track progress.
  • Achievable — Reaching this goal should be realistic in the time frame you decide upon. Moonshot goals might be temporarily motivating, but you’ll likely end up discouraged in the long run.
  • Relevant — Your goals should line up with your company’s goals. Improving employee engagement, for example, could align with your company’s overall goals of winning a “Best Place to Work” award or improving your average reviews score on sites like Glassdoor.
  • Time-bound — Deadlines will help you create a realistic timeline to achieve your goals.

Your program can also speak to weak spots that human resources or other departments have identified. Whether it’s smoother onboarding, turnover reduction, or encouraging general skills sharing, defining the “why” behind your program will help it succeed. 

It could also encourage participation from your employees. With a better understanding of the purpose behind the program, they’ll also better understand the benefits of why they should participate.

2. Make flexibility the basis of the program 

To cater to both remote, in-person and hybrid working arrangements, the foundation of your program should be digital. That means matches, introductions, and meetings are done using technology. But if the two paired employees happen to be in the same hybrid office, build in the flexibility to allow them to meet in person. 

A set curriculum for mentors and mentees can help move conversations and goals forward. Weekly topics and conversation starters can enrich the information shared and make for a more information-rich session. 

3. Use employee goals and interests as your primary matching criteria, but consider time zones

Ideally, mentees and mentors will have compatible goals that will make each person feel like they’re getting something out of your program. Using these compatible goals to create mentor-mentee matches will encourage participation and enable strong relationships. 

Ten Thousand Coffees’ (10KC) Smart-Match algorithm pairs employees based on their interests and goals without biases.

If you have a lot of program participants, creating these matches manually via spreadsheets and long meetings can be overwhelming.

Using a mentorship software like 10KC can help pair employees quickly with intelligent goal-based algorithms. Our platform also allows you to set restrictions on the matches, with one critical one being that the mentor and mentee must be within two or three time zones of each other. This is important for organizations with a global employee base who rely on remote work like Nike. Mentors need to be available to handle their mentees’ questions and concerns outside of their designated time to meet, so people with little overlap or flexibility during the work day aren’t suitable matches. 

4. Match mentees with more than one mentor

A robust network of mentors and peers helps build your career over time. A mentor’s expertise has the power to change the trajectory of a mentee’s path to success. Especially for new employees or interns, connecting mentees with more than one mentor can: 

  • Help them grow their skill sets
  • Give them a better idea of how they want to develop their own careers
  • Introduce them to different teams and departments to develop a better understanding of how your company works
  • Experience diverse ideas and viewpoints … no one person has all the answers!

For all participants, connecting with more than one person helps them to grow their professional network. And cultivating more connections within your organization helps to encourage cross-team collaboration and communication.

10KC can help define rules for matching employees to each other to create optimal connections with multiple colleagues.

5. Gather and act on feedback throughout the duration of the program 

Don’t wait until your program wraps up to survey participants. 

A pre-program survey paired with a post-completion survey can help you measure progress. However, feedback gathered while your program is still running can help you course correct issues as they occur.

A mentorship platform gives HR teams real-time data in a centralized spot about how their program is going and what type of connections employees are making. No more manual follow-ups or meetings are needed to get a sentiment on how the program is going.

6. Offer frequent nudges and check-ins

A mentoring platform like 10KC’s will keep mentors and mentees on track by sending invitations to meet, offering emails nudging participants to connect when it’s been a while, and automatically sending surveys to collect information on how the relationship is progressing. Integrations with digital messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams help bolster the connections, too. 

This is one aspect where systemized mentorship has a big advantage over traditional, informal mentorship. In the past, mentors and mentees were paired, and it was up to them to meet as necessary. With a platform like 10KC in place, mentorship can be structured so that outcomes can be measured and consistent goals can be achieved. 

Are you ready to start a remote mentoring program that will wow mentors and mentees?

Schedule a demo today to learn more about how 10KC can help you create a flexible mentorship program that caters to global, distributed workforces and keeps coworkers connected.

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