What role might there be for external mentoring in hybrid working scenarios?

Consulting, Wellbeing Strategy

Hybrid working will shape the future of work

It looks as though some form of hybrid working, combining time in the office with using technology to work from home is here to stay and be a part of the future for all our working lives.

There are obvious benefits to hybrid working. It saves time on travel and commuting, which in turn has an impact on CO2 emissions and sustainability. It can enable a better balance between working life and home and family life. And it can allow organisations to recruit staff from a much wider geographical area than before, expanding the talent pool they can draw from.

What challenges might hybrid working bring?

There are many challenges that come with hybrid working as well.

Some elements of ‘office life’ are easy to replicate on video conferencing, such as formal meetings and one to one’s.

Other important things that happen at work that support our development and progress in our careers happen in the less obvious “spaces and places” of work and are harder to transfer. One example might be the simple ability of being able to observe and model the behaviour of colleagues to “learn the job” just by being around people in the working environment.

It can be harder for new employees

This can be true at all levels of the organisation. Arguably remote working has been harder for new employees, who don’t yet have an understanding of “how things work” at their new organisation.

What is expected of them in their role?

How do they develop a personal network of contacts within the organisation that might normally extend beyond the cohort of their role?

These aspects are different from those of an established employee.

The impact at all levels of personal development

Every stage of career development comes with challenges that can be easier to overcome when we’re working in close proximity to people who have already dealt with similar challenges.

Many new senior level staff, moving into roles such as a Director or Head of Department, talk of “impostor syndrome” and a feeling that they’re “not supposed to be there”. The impact of this can be lessened when their peer group is more visible to them or they have seen other people like them make the same journey, achieving this in a hybrid working environment might not be as straightforward.

Mentoring can help, but can be hard to deliver

Mentoring can help support these essential elements of personal development. It’s a more structured way of ensuring that employees gain access to being able to develop the “soft skills” they need to develop in their role, and a space to discuss how they can be applied.

But it can be hard to deliver at scale across the organisation. By definition mentoring works by pairing a more experienced member of the team with someone less experienced. In most organisations, where there is at least some sort of “pyramid of expertise” there tends to be fewer experienced people than there are less experienced people. Those experienced people all tend to be busy in their own roles, and often leading and managing teams of their own. However keen they might be to be mentors, and however much the organisation may encourage it and see it as a positive part of their role, it’s easy for it to drop down the list of priorities or need to be “squeezed in” rather than treated with the attention and focus it deserves.

External mentoring can be an even better way to deliver support

At first glance external mentoring might seem a less than optimal solution. Isn’t part of mentoring about sharing the internal ways of working of the organisation that might also form a part of your wellbeing strategy? Well, yes. It can be. But more and more organisations need to be able to flex and change and adapt to challenging times. So potentially that kind of “this is how we have always done it here” kind of mentoring risks stasis and reinforcing practice that needs to change.

Conversely, being mentored by expertise from outside the organisation is a way for the company to gain insight and examples of good practice and lived experience from a wider range of sources. It also resolves the problem of scaling mentoring by not relying on a limited range of senior experience from within.

In our experience the critical thing is less about direct experience of the organisation and more about the right match between mentor and mentee. The mentor should have experience in a similar sector, represent at least one potential “direction of travel” for the career path the mentee is travelling on, and have alignment with the values and motivations of the mentee.

And the mentor should be clear on what mentoring can deliver, develop a collaborative relationship with their mentee and be able to flex between being able to create a space for self reflection and self awareness and provide more practical, directive advice for their partner.

External mentoring is a vital part of the hybrid workplace

We think external mentoring has a vital role to play in the emergence of the hybrid working practice of the future. What do you think?

How well established is mentoring in your organisation? Do your mentors share best practice?

Can you see the impact of mentoring via improved Mental Fitness, wellbeing and personal development?

Would you consider using external mentoring at your organisation?

We’d love to hear your views and experiences, or talk more about how external mentoring can help.

Shaping wellbeing for your organisation? Get in touch…

If you’re in the frontline of shaping strategy and improving wellbeing in your organisation and would like to chat to someone, whether that’s to explore ideas, feel re-energised, gain confidence or just feel as though you’re not the only one that’s excited about this, then our consultants and coaches are always happy to talk.

We are all going through tough and challenging times. If you’d like to talk to someone about finding your own resilience and using it to become better and better at leading and supporting as you develop strategy and manage change, we’re here to support and listen as well..

We’re offering one to one coaching to HR professionals at a reduced or potential free rate, complete the form here to find out if you might qualify.

by | 17 Mar 2022

Explore Insights by topic

Interested in a particular topic, then click to discover latest insights.