How To Start An Online Mentoring Group
Mentorship is a unique experience, and no two are the same. Whether you find a mentor on your own or are paired with one through a workplace mentoring program they have the opportunity to transform your life or career. Their advice and guidance can help you build a better future. Who wouldn’t want that?
Companies are looking to online mentoring as a way to build more connected and inclusive remote or hybrid workplaces. And over the past year, technology has demonstrated its ability to keep us connected while we are apart. These tools have made virtual mentoring an easy way for companies to connect their talent with one another wherever they are. Mentees can find mentors with unique skills and experience that can help them learn and grow.
One way companies are expanding online mentoring opportunities within their organizations is to create groups of employees who mentor one another. Doing so can help build a positive workplace culture. As workers have become more adept and comfortable with video conferencing technology, mentoring a group online is more accessible. In these settings, a mentor guides a group of mentees, who benefit from the mentor’s experience and knowledge and peer learning as part of a group. Likewise, the mentees can discuss their challenges and goals with one another through peer-mentoring in these groups.
What is a peer-mentoring group?
Peer mentoring is where the mentor and mentee relationship is flat. They’re at the same stage in their career and may even be around the same age. Rather than a senior mentor sharing guidance with a protégé, they’re peers helping one another.
In these situations, one of the peers may have more experience in an area than another and can share their knowledge. They mentor one another based on their expertise and grow together.
These relationships can be cultivated as one-on-one experiences or in a group setting. And in remote settings, it can all happen through virtual conferencing or a webinar-style lecture.
The benefits of mentoring groups
Workplace mentoring programs have several benefits for employees and the company, such as:
- Skill enhancement
- Lower turnover rate
- Higher employee engagement
Peer mentoring offers these same benefits to organizations. But they offer additional benefits to both the company and participants:
- Peer advising adds a diversity of perspectives.
- Peers can hold each other accountable to set and work towards their goals.
- Participants are given the opportunity to practice and strengthen leadership skills.
- Participants expand the network and connect with different individuals across the organization.
There is a lot of upside for organizations and employees who start group mentoring programs. And by doing so through online meetings it’s easier than ever to get dispersed employees together.
Let’s outline how to start a mentoring group online.
Creating A Mentoring Group Through Online Meetings
Starting an online mentoring group requires some planning and preparation for success. Here’s how you can start an online mentoring group for your organization:
1. Set goals for the mentoring program
It’s essential to set goals for your online mentoring group for a successful program. Goals give participants a focus for their interactions. It also increases their commitment to take action to achieve the goals. Some examples of mentorship goals include:
- Skill development - many mentees are looking to gain new skills and knowledge to help them be better and more competitive in their jobs.
- Networking - both the mentor and mentee can expand their networks through a group experience.
- Reputation - mentors can grow their reputation as strong advisors within the organization.
- Gaining new perspectives - both mentors and mentees will grow from coming to understand different perspectives.
2. Find participants
For organizations that have a small pool of mentors to draw from, group mentoring experiences are ideal. They require fewer mentors but can still benefit a large number of mentees.
However, you should still build a strategy for promoting your group. Some ways you can get the word out include:
Send out a notice to employees in your organization announcing your online mentoring group plans. Be sure to include the benefits of participation, so employees understand what they have to gain.
If your organization has an intranet, you can put up some information about the mentoring opportunity. Don’t forget to include a link where interested employees can get more information or register.
For remote workplaces, having an online portal to learn more about the group mentoring program is ideal for promoting it. If you use mentoring software, you can add options where interested individuals can sign up, contact the program coordinator and even build their profile.
Ask company leaders to help you spread the word about your group mentoring program. Getting them on board may require you to consider ways to build a business case for your mentoring program, but having leaders advocate for your group is one of the best promotional tools you can have.
3. Decide on expectations for the group
Setting some expectations for the group can help things run smoothly, such as:
- Meeting frequency - what is a reasonable schedule of meetings that works for all participants?
- How to give good feedback - how can participants constructively provide honest feedback?
- Prepare for meetings - participants who come unprepared for the discussions can inhibit the progress of the whole group. Encourage mentees to do the necessary pre-work before the sessions so that conversations can be fruitful.
- Confidentiality - peer learning needs a level of trust among the group. Talk to participants about keeping discussions confidential. This will enable mentees to ask questions or raise issues they might otherwise be hesitant to discuss.
4. Organize topics for each session
Getting the conversations started can be difficult at first, especially if group participants do not know each other well. To overcome this challenge, prepare some topics to discuss for each session. These can include:
- Getting to know each other - start with easy questions that include the five w’s (who, what, where, when, and why). You may consider lightening the mood by organizing virtual icebreaker activities.
- Setting some goals - what are mentees hoping to learn or gain from the experience? Are they familiar with the SMART goal-setting method?
- Situations - discuss some common problems that participants may have to overcome in your workplace. Consider some role-playing activities that can help mentees better understand the right way to handle difficult situations they may encounter.
- Feedback - have a session where one of the participants can discuss a recent presentation or work-related tasks they’ve completed and let their peers offer some constructive feedback.
5. Have the right tech and encourage productive conversations
Having the right tech tools and know-how creates a better experience for everyone in your online mentoring group. Video conferencing has become commonplace for many employees, which is an advantage for starting up an online group.
Picking the right platform that has interactive and engaging features is crucial. For example, Live Webinar allows for participants to connect with each other with their intuitive chat feature and breakout rooms. Yet, its simple and familiar appearance will give users confidence during sessions. It’s critical that the technology you use to connect with your mentoring group does not distract but enhance the experience.
Creating great conversations includes having ice breakers, which can be fun and build a team atmosphere. Activities can include things such as would you rather questions, discussing remote working challenges, and sharing favourite photos can bring your online group mentoring team together. But it is also important that you encourage participants to actively listen and be empathetic to their peers.
Another advantage to online mentoring groups is that the meetings can be transcribed and the key points shared with others in the future. It is a great way to recap the highlights that resulted from the conversations peers had with each other.
6. Seek feedback from participants
Asking for feedback from participants of your online mentoring group can help you see where you are succeeding and what elements need to be improved. Encourage mentees and mentors to share their experience and respond to it by making changes if needed.
You can seek feedback by sending out a form after each meeting or connecting with participants one-on-one to get qualitative feedback. For workplace virtual mentoring programs this feedback is crucial to demonstrating the effectiveness of the program to senior leaders.
Group mentoring can build stronger teams
Online group mentoring holds significant benefits for participants and organizations, such as skill development, reducing turnover rate, and improving employee engagement. Peers will also learn how to work well with those who have different perspectives. They can build their leadership and communication skills and expand their networks.
With tools like LiveWebinar, your mentoring group can hold productive and fun online meetings in a familiar format. With features like breakout rooms and intuitive chat, peers can engage each other in different ways to build up their skills and connection in your hybrid or remote workplace.