5 Strategies for Effective Mentorship in Hybrid Work Environments

November 15, 2023
Hybrid Work
5 Strategies for Effective Mentorship in Hybrid Work Environments

TL;DR Article Summary

As hybrid work becomes prevalent, maintaining effective mentorship becomes crucial. Despite remote productivity, the importance of in-person relationships, especially for younger employees, emphasizes the need for intentional mentorship strategies.

  • Remote work is great, but in-person interactions are crucial for building strong mentor-mentee relationships.
  • Gen Z workers wants both career guidance and social connections at work.
  • Leverage technology for communication and collaboration, but don't skip in-person meetings.
  • Structured programs, flexible communication, and peer-to-peer mentoring can boost success.
  • Empower junior employees to seek out and actively participate in mentorship opportunities.

Mentoring remains essential to nurturing talent and fostering growth within organizations. While the pandemic demonstrated that work can be done productively in remote settings, the relationship-building required in good mentorships calls for more intentionality.

Nick Bloom, Stanford economics professor and WFH Research cofounder, discovered that employees aged 20 to 29 are least keen on fully-remote work, as they value in-person mentoring and socializing. This finding is further supported by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, coined “Hybrid Expert” by the New York Times, who sees benefits of in-person interaction for mentorships from his ample experience helping clients successfully transition to hybrid work.

“Mentees and junior employees can ask questions and get answers in real time, which is at the heart of on-the-job training. It’s certainly possible to do so remotely, but it takes more organization and effort.” - Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts

By 2030, Gen Z will account for roughly 30% of the workforce (Johns Hopkins University). Knowing that, it’s essential to effectively mentor these junior employees who will become the future of your workforce. Here are strategies for ensuring mentees receive the support and guidance they need to succeed in a hybrid work environment.

Redefining Mentoring Roles in Hybrid Work

In traditional office environments, mentoring often took place organically through face-to-face interactions. New employees would shadow their mentors, ask questions at their desks, and build relationships over coffee breaks. In hybrid work environments, these dynamics have changed. Mentors and mentees may be located in different locations, making informal interactions less frequent.

To adapt to this change, managers and mentors need to be keenly aware of this shift and put strategies in place to address it. Mentors now need to be more intentional about scheduling times to meet, setting clear expectations, and providing remote-friendly resources for new employees. They also need to be aware of all the challenges of remote work, such as isolation and digital fatigue, and provide avenues for emotional support and guidance.

“Hybrid work is harder than full-time in-office work. It requires better managers.” - Rob Sadow, CEO and co-founder of Scoop

Additionally, mentors of junior employees need to consider their unique challenges in hybrid work settings, including feelings of isolation, reduced social interaction, and communication barriers. Many of these junior employees missed out on the opportunity to practice much needed in-person skills due to the pandemic, and are now even more eager to learn these skills from mentors. They look to work as a place to socialize and make friends, while also gaining experience and career advancement opportunities. 

All of this points to a need for new mentoring strategies.

Evolving Role of Mentors in Hybrid Work

Organizations can and should train mentors and managers to accommodate the new realities of hybrid work, including building trust and rapport in virtual settings, providing guidance on remote work best practices, and being more intentional with how time is spent together. Here’s how you can evolve your mentoring approaches in response to hybrid work:

1. Leverage Technology for Mentorship

Organizations are increasingly turning to digital solutions for mentoring and onboarding. Video conferencing tools, collaboration platforms, and project management software have become essential for facilitating remote mentoring relationships.

For instance, tools like Google Meet or Zoom bridge physical distances and allow for real-time interactions. Asynchronous tools such as Loom help mentors and mentees see and hear from each other through pre-recorded videos when they’re unable to meet in real-time. These tools make it easier for mentors and junior employees to communicate, collaborate on tasks, and share resources. Furthermore, they help create a sense of presence, even when participants are miles apart. 

“The traditional reliance on drive-by conversations and water cooler interactions must make way for intentional involvement of remote team members in decision-making and communication.” - Rob Sadow, CEO and co-founder of Scoop

Technology can also be used to support in-person interactions in a hybrid environment. Digital communication is great to bridge distances when needed, but it has its limits. Stanford research by Dr. Jeremy Bailenson found that videoconferencing is less effective than being in person and that bonding between pairs of people was greatest during in-person interactions. 

Knowing this, mentors and mentees should utilize in-person office time to meet up and establish a connection before moving into a virtual mentorship relationship. Tools like desk booking software can help them coordinate their schedule and ensure they’re onsite at the same time. Using technology effectively is key to ensuring that the mentoring process remains efficient and productive.

2. Structure Onboarding and Mentorship Programs

To ensure that mentoring new employees remains effective in hybrid work environments, organizations can implement structured onboarding and mentorship programs. These programs provide a clear roadmap for both mentors and mentees, making the onboarding process smoother and more predictable.

Structured programs should include a series of training sessions, milestone check-ins, and regular evaluations to gauge the progress of the mentoring relationship. This approach helps ensure that all essential aspects of the job are covered and that the mentee receives the necessary guidance to succeed, regardless of their location.

“In a hybrid environment, especially if you are coming in and out of an office and you find somebody you want some exposure to or want to expand your network with, use the time in the office together to actually meet up and have that kind of in person connection at first that then could move into a virtual mentorship relationship.” - Sacha Connor, Founder/CEO of Virtual Work Insider

3. Embrace Flexible Communication

Mentoring in hybrid work environments requires the ability to adapt to different communication styles and be sensitive to the unique challenges faced by new employees working remotely. 

New employees working offsite may need more time to learn the tools used in the organization, and mentors may need to be more deliberate in providing guidance or be more flexible in utilizing innovative methods to teach them. Additionally, since a hybrid environment lends itself to multiple ways of communicating, new employees may get lost in the noise and feel like they’re not included in the team. 

Thus, coordinating and aligning hybrid teams, building virtual relationships, and utilizing digital collaboration tools become essential skills for managers. Mentors should be open to various communication methods and schedules to accommodate the needs of their mentees. They should also encourage open and honest feedback to continuously improve the mentoring relationship and the onboarding process.

“I’ll do a video or podcast about what’s on my mind, books I’m reading, and what I want the team to think about from a talent and people perspective that’s outside of their OKRs. It’s called ‘The Sunday Night Series,’ and it's my way of setting the tone of the week with my team.” - Dena Upton, Head of People at Dandy

4. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Mentoring

The burden of mentorship doesn't have to fall solely on experienced employees. Encouraging peer-to-peer mentoring (sometimes called “buddy systems”) can be a valuable addition to the mentoring landscape. When new hires learn from their peers who have similar experiences and challenges, they can gain unique insights and practical advice that may not come from a more senior mentor.

Accessing peers as mentors could open up more opportunities for in-person learning, as mentees would not have to adapt their schedules to only one specific individual. If needed, peer-to-peer mentoring can be facilitated virtually through online forums, chat groups, or even through dedicated mentoring platforms. By promoting peer-to-peer mentoring, organizations foster a sense of community and shared responsibility for onboarding new employees.

“We do see that the younger generations actually prefer a more amenity rich, hospitality type of space and have this ability to not only have access to senior leaders for mentoring and learning, but access to each other.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler 

5. Empower Junior Employees

Fostering effective mentorships requires more intentional effort in remote environments. Junior employees should be empowered to take a more proactive role in hybrid work mentorship, including seeking mentorship opportunities, communicating effectively with mentors, and setting clear remote work goals. 

Mentees can map out their sphere of influence to identify the individuals they need to connect with at different levels and broaden their network—within and outside their organization—to gain exposure and influence. In a hybrid work environment, mentees should take advantage of time onsite to seek out leaders who could help them make these introductions and connections. By actively seeking guidance and mentorship, individuals can overcome the challenges of remote work and continue their journey of personal development.

“Oftentimes, it’s really helpful to actually go to your manager or to go to somebody else in the organization and further map out your unknown network.” - Sacha Connor, Founder/CEO of Virtual Work Insider

The Changing Landscape of Mentorships

In the hybrid work era, the ability to foster mentorship relationships effectively will be a valuable skill for both mentors and mentees. Digital mentoring relationships can be developed from any location and provide opportunities for personal and professional growth—if done with intentionality. That means leveraging technology to close physical distances when necessary, being proactive in connecting and communicating, and continuing to meet in-person to strengthen interpersonal relationships.

Check out How To Structure Hybrid Work To Maximize Productivity and Joy for more strategies to improve employee engagement in flexible work environments. If you’re ready to start scheduling and booking desks and rooms, create your free Skedda account today.

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