Mentoring a teleworking team: A new and necessary challenge

The Internet is the cause of many of the social and cultural changes we face today. One of them is the way of working. This information technology has made many people prefer to work from their homes and other remote sites, rather than doing their labors from an office. In fact, several companies no longer have large headquarters, and most of their employees operate from home. In other words, the Internet has made companies more intangible (and perhaps more efficient because of this.) In consequence, the task of directing and mentoring the employees of a company must change. It is one thing to do mentoring in a traditional company (even if the mentor must travel from one city or another country to visit his or her mentees,) and another thing is to do it through Skype.

Liza Working from Home_virtual mentoring_Mentoring a teleworking team
Image courtesy of Citrix Online at Flickr.com

So, in this post, I will analyze this situation and give some useful tips for a successful virtual mentoring.

Telework is an evidence that a company is primarily communications; a communications network, more than a group of people operating in a physical facility. This type of organization takes advantage of new technologies so that both parties, workers, and employees, can benefit from them. Telework offers a number of advantages, indeed.  It allows an employee, consultant, or contractor to work remotely from his or her home or another chosen place during a few days or the entire week. It is also an option for those days when an employee must attend to personal matters that will only require a reduced part of the day. However, teleworking may be quite challenging both for mentors and employees, since there is a lack of physical control over the mentoring processes, and some employees usually mix work and personal life, and it complicates their performance.

So, mentoring and managing teleworking employees requires a very concrete approach to what it means to ‘stay in touch.’ It requires a results-oriented management style with good planning performance of all employees.

Read also: What Can Mentoring Do For Me And My Career?, by Suzzanne Uhland

It is necessary to establish clear communication and to take additional steps to build proper trust and evaluation processes. Many corporations employ remote teams, and the manager communicates daily with his or her colleagues, as well as the employees in different parts of the world, not just by phone or email, but thanks to a set of new Internet-based tools, like WhatsApp. However, and mainly due to fears and lack of custom, many executives still find it very difficult to manage remote equipment.

In order to get the most out of your teleworkers team, you need to establish clear and regular communication to build trust and evaluating that the employees are working efficiently. It is important to keep in touch with them, and not only when it comes to business: Use webinars for training them, spend some moments of your day to ask them how it is going with them. Keep thing human.

Now, setting up tasks via email and providing an urgent contact channel is fine. But it may be much better if you use video conferencing software to which everyone has access, like Skype and Hangouts, because it allows you to see faces and to normalize relationships. It is important to keep in touch periodically. How much? Hold such meetings once a week, short and effective communications. Choose a day and an hour that suits most or, if necessary, divide your remote employees by time zones and create work groups. The ideal time may be early Monday to plan everything up from the beginning of the week, or maybe on Friday afternoon to check the evolution of goals and setting new targets for the next seven days of work. The important thing is ‘to bring them together,’ whatever day it may be. We are humans, social beings, we need this. In addition, this helps to impose schedules and thus contributing to the organization and overall responsibility.

Sarah Using HDFaces with Urijah_virtual mentoring
Image courtesy of Citrix Online at Flickr.com

Technology is a great ally for business and opens many doors that would otherwise remain closed. It is basic to increase productivity and strengthen ties. But, again, you are working with people, and it is important to socialize in person. Just checking that everything is going well (or not) is never enough. They should feel an essential part of the company, and it is worth making an effort to meet them personally. It complements the daily emails and the weekly video conferences with face-to-face meetings between the local staff and the workers that operate from other parts of the world. Collect them in the same place. Buy the tickets and cover the expenses. Organize trips to the central office so people can meet in person and chat even once a year. It is their company, after all, so make them feel at home.

It is also important that you keep updated about the new technological developments for improving your communication. Telework mentoring is more than writing and checking emails. Be always curious about what can the new tools do for your business.

Recommended: Mentoring Virtually in a Teleworking Environment

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