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Charlie Duff

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The benefits of hi-tech, hi-touch mentoring


Mentoring might not be an obvious area to apply software, but it could help your organisation be more effective and help with ROI of a mentoring initiative.

In today’s market conditions, when concerns of cost and efficiency are a priority for firms who want to stay ahead of the competition, complementing a mentoring initiative with technology can produce significant gains.

As a rule of thumb, every HR leader knows and employs the positive ROI rule when deciding on a new initiative. This rule is especially important when investing in talent management technology, which requires an additional cash outlay for the company and changes the way in which many HR administrators, managers and employees perform day-to-day tasks.

With that in mind, the question is whether technology can be a part of a successful mentoring initiative. Mentoring is, after all, purely about relationships between people. In fact, in the realm of talent management, mentoring relationships are as ‘hi-touch’ as you can get. And no one disputes the potential gains to an organisation from a good mentoring initiative. But at first glance, the chances of an investment in an online solution that supports and generates a positive ROI may seem few and far between. How is technology going to help?

In fact, for firms running medium to large-scale mentoring initiatives, using software to facilitate and complement the initiative produces tangible gains. A good online solution can support a mentoring initiative and enable companies to achieve their mentoring-related business objectives in the following ways:

Facilitate sound matching and pairing relationships
Well-defined, focused, and mutually beneficial Mentor-Mentee relationships are the backbone of successful mentoring initiatives. While matching and pairing can be done by people, a systematic online process can help mentoring administrators connect Mentors and Mentees more quickly, using an array of clear and specific personal criteria to generate the most suitable matches for mutual personal and career development.

With a well-designed technology solution, participants are able to complete various assessments and fill in a wide range of relevant information including current job title, skills, personality traits on the job, individual timetable, and clear and specific mentoring goals. The technology can then do the ‘lo-touch’ work, indicating possible choices for Mentors with Mentees according to their respective traits and goals via a customisable algorithm. This frees up administrators for more ‘hi-touch’ work within the mentoring initiative.

Increase administrative efficiency
Armed with a series of online back-office support capabilities, mentoring administrators and consultants can deliver a high-quality initiative while saving time and resources. In addition to tools for matching and pairing, a well-designed mentoring software solution typically features assessments, data tracking, and reporting tools. These enable administrators and consultants to oversee the programme more closely and promptly cater to the needs of its participants on both sides of the Mentor-Mentee relationship.

Enhance program capacity, thereby reducing overall training costs
Ultimately, greater administrative efficiency means a greater programme capacity and, therefore, a greater participation rate within the organisation. It is widely known that effective mentoring, when complementing or replacing expensive offsite training initiatives, can help an organisation cut training costs per employee and increase the amount of time an employee remains on the job. Over time, facilitating an initiative with technology will increase the total value of these savings and productivity gains for the firm.

It is important to keep in mind that an online mentoring solution typically works for some firms and not others. By way of the avenues above, economies of scale tend to generate more profitable opportunities for very large firms using mentoring software and less profitable opportunities for small ones. In general, an integrated technology solution works best for firms with a minimum of 75-100 employees, says Judy Corner, subject matter expert leader at Insala.

Regardless of the size of your firm, it is paramount to determine the ROI of purchasing and implementing mentoring technology. For many firms, incorporating an online solution into a new or existing initiative can render a ‘hi-tech, hi-touch’ career development solution – one that boosts not only employee morale and productivity, but the bottom line as well.

Stephen Grindod is global marketing director of Insala

2 Responses

  1. Online vs in real life

    I don’t think there’s any doubt you cannot fogo personal interaction by replacing it with technology.

    I suspect Stephen does understand the need for face-to-face time with those being mentored – in fact, I think he means that the software can help with matching and any admin to allow more personal contact.

    Also, it is technology month here on HRzone so we are looking at articles with a tech focus.

    Thank you for your comment – we always appreciate intelligent comment like yours from experts in the field.

  2. Software support for mentoring and coaching ROI
    Whilst I agree that software has a part to play in simplifying the administration of large scale mentoring or coaching initiatives I found that Stephens article focussed too heavily on this aspect. Technology doesn’t just allow us to use mentoring (and coaching) more cheaply and efficiently: it can allow us to do it better.

    Cost-cutting through the use of algorithms to determine a mentor-mentee match may well be valid, both in terms of speed and in the removal of subjective administrator opinion, but there is little here to suggest that the vital human element of ‘chemistry’ in such a relationship is taken into account. While we use such technology solutions to improve the administration processes, we always allow the individual to have ‘chemistry calls’ with at least two matched Mentors or Coaches.

    Our experience of such initiatives is that the chemistry between the two people is crucial in creating the type of learning environment that allows the Mentee, or Coachee, to examine and reflect on their goals, think differently about how they might achieve them, and work with support of others to make the key changes in their behaviour which will see them become more effective in their day to day work performance.

    It is at this stage when technology can come into its own in enhancing the effectiveness of the learning, and in particular the transfer of that learning into workplace application. It is our belief that this is where true ROI lives, and that technology can help in measuring it.

    Examples of the types of technology applications we use include:

    1. Asynchronous communication between mentor and mentee between sessions to help track progress and support action on learning goals (thus giving reflection time before a response and to providing flexibility to fit into the work patterns of both parties)

    2. Providing learning resources on-line that provide additional dimensions, perspectives and tips on how to tackle the issues and goals being discussed

    3. Automated emails to the Mentee to remind them (in a busy work-life) to review their progress against the agreed learning goals, and to update these in a shared confidential space that allows the Mentor to provide feedback, comment and support. If appropriate, this can also be opened up to others who support the mentee, including their Line Manager, to provide even greater impetus behind the learning application.

    4. At goal completion, and at the end of assignment, automated ROI questionnaires can be used to collect and report on the impact the initiative has had for the individual Mentee, their team/function/department and the organisation overall

    5. ‘Audit’ trails for the organisational owner of the Mentoring or Coaching programme enable them to analyse Management Information on the take up of meetings, track progress against goals, analyse goal types to identify organisational development themes and review evaluation data to calculate ROI.

    Technologies can never fully replace the key human dimensions in the creation of a dynamic learning environment between Mentor and Mentee, between Coach and Coachee. However, software systems can significantly add to the support of the learning through providing additional resources, tracking progress, reminding people of their commitments made to develop and provide ROI data to business owners.

    Chris Rogers is a Principal Consultant at ASK Europe

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