Editorial: How Virtual Mentorship Can Prevent A “Turnover Tsunami”. Christy Pettit, Pollinate Networks Inc.

Christy Pettit, Pollinate Networks Inc.

Christy Pettit, BA, MBA is the CEO and co-founder of Pollinate Networks Inc. a cloud-based organizational effectiveness platform for enterprise transformation and growth. For over 25 years, Christy has worked with companies around the world to provide innovative leadership and expert advice on how to successfully implement effectiveness strategies and best practices within organizations.

These are tumultuous times for leaders and employees alike as how we work continues to evolve in response to pandemic pressures, advances in technology and a growing thirst for flexibility. Leaders walk a tightrope trying to balance the imperative for results with creating a positive employee experience, which shows up in an organization’s ability to attract, engage and retain staff, and satisfy customers.

At the same time, all signs point to increasing employee disengagement and loneliness at work due to issues such as a perceived lack of leadership, overwork and general feeling of disconnection from remote and hybrid work situations.

Texas A&M University associate management professor Anthony Klotz warned in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview recently of a looming “great resignation” that will see workers quit en masse for greener pastures or lifestyle changes as the economy opens up. Also heralded as a potential “turnover tsunami,” it is an expensive and risky situation for employers who must replace the loss of organizational knowledge and skills at significant cost.

The good news? There is one surefire strategy that is proven to build rapport and connection across organizations for a cascade of positive outcomes, from cultivating and retaining talent to creating a positive culture that advances diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

That strategy is mentoring. And at Pollinate we’ve shown time and time again that virtual mentorship programs are as effective – and often more so – than in-person interactions.

The benefits of virtual mentoring

Formal mentorship programs have many benefits, and virtual mentoring goes one step further with the added advantage of flexibility.

Virtual mentoring allows mentors and mentees to communicate with each other from anywhere in the world, potentially creating a larger pool of mentors within global organizations or externally.

Plus, today’s wide array of technology options allows for even more convenience, from phone and video chats to asynchronous touchpoints by email or text that can add to the discussion or deepen the conversation. Mentorship research tells us that when mentors and mentees communicate in multiple ways, they gain a greater sense of engagement and connection.

Virtual mentorship programs also foster:

Increased connection for higher engagement

Formal mentorship programs widen and strengthen networks, creating stronger ties between people, while counteracting the isolation and loneliness many people experience working remotely. Engagement scores rise accordingly.

Efficient knowledge transfer

Mentorship programs cross-pollinate knowledge and new skills across silos and management levels, building both general and specialist knowledge and preserving organizational memory. This prevents years of experience and expertise from suddenly ‘walking out the door’ when key people leave or retire.

Better career outcomes

Mentoring prepares employees to take the next step, honing leadership, decision-making and critical thinking skills. It also creates the conditions for people to be sponsored into new opportunities. Millennials and Gen Z in particular actively seek organizations with mentorship opportunities to support career advancement.

More effective DEI programs

McKinsey & Company has observed that “more diverse companies lure better talent and improve their decision making, customer orientation, and employee satisfaction.”

Mentoring is uniquely successful in breaking down barriers of gender, culture, ethnicity, and age. It can be deployed to support underrepresented team members, and to increase diversity knowledge, cross-cultural understanding and participation rates.

Best practices for virtual mentoring success

Virtual mentoring can also present challenges, stemming from different personality styles and communications preferences, that can be overcome with the following best practices:

 Mentor-mentee matching

The right match is key to mentorship success. At Pollinate we use proprietary algorithms to optimally match mentors and mentees based on results from our proprietary personality test and specific program objectives. The best matches have the right balance of similarity in collaboration and learning style with enough difference for novel perspectives.

Education

Both mentors and mentees benefit from upfront education that includes their roles and responsibilities, and what to do if the relationship is not working.

 Communications plan

At the outset, mentors and mentees should set clear boundaries, and discuss how they prefer to communicate, when they will communicate and how much time they will spend together (a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes per week is recommended for best results).

With these strategies in mind and a clear plan in place, mentorship is the ‘glue’ that can hold an organization together even as technology makes it possible for us to work far apart. bh

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