The rapid transformation of the workplace from in-office to a hybrid modality disrupted the way we mentor and support junior employees. As we navigate the hybrid and remote working landscape, it’s crucial to adapt our mentoring approaches to ensure young talent flourishes. I recently had the opportunity to discuss this topic with Ahva Sadeghi, CEO of Symba, in an interview. Here are some key takeaways, which align with my conversations with clients who I helped transition to a return to office and hybrid work.
The Hybrid and Remote Mentoring Challenge
A recent study by scholars at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa found that software engineers located in different buildings on the same campus wrote more computer programs than those who were sitting close to colleagues. However, the engineers who worked in different buildings commented less on others’ code. In other words, they were more productive but that meant that less experienced coders got weaker mentorship.
Apprenticeships and on-the-job learning are essential to the growth of junior employees, but remote and hybrid work can make it difficult to create psychological safety, according to Sadeghi. In a remote setting, junior employees often struggle with reaching out to their mentors, unsure of the appropriate mode of communication. They are left pondering whether an email, a phone call, or an instant message is best suited for their questions.
To overcome this, it’s essential for employers to clearly outline communication channels and establish support systems. Employers should create guidelines on when and how to reach out to mentors and managers, making it easier for junior employees to ask for help when needed.
For in-person apprenticeships, employers should also provide access to necessary resources, such as transportation, to facilitate an immersive learning experience. This support not only ensures a smoother onboarding process but also demonstrates the company’s commitment to the employee’s success.
Gen Z’s Unique Workplace Needs
Sadeghi noted that Gen Z brings a fresh perspective to the workplace, with a strong focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, and a desire to work with employers who champion diversity, equity, and inclusion. Their values and expectations are shaped by the unique experiences and global events that have occurred during their formative years, making them a generation like no other.
In addition, Gen Z is highly adaptable to new technologies. They have grown up in a digital world, and as a result, are often more comfortable with technology than their older counterparts. This adaptability can be a valuable asset in the workplace, particularly when it comes to embracing new tools and software.
While Gen Z craves in-person mentorship and opportunities for growth, research shows they also appreciate the flexibility of remote work. They enjoy the chance to work from home a few days a week while still having the option to go into the office when needed. As leaders, we must strike a balance between providing access to opportunities and ensuring professional growth and development.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Remote Work
In a remote work environment, Sadeghi points out that leaders should be mindful of creating an inclusive space that accommodates various needs and preferences. By adopting a remote or hybrid work model, companies can expand their talent pool and provide opportunities for those who might not have access to them otherwise.
For example, remote work can allow individuals with disabilities or those who live in rural areas to work for companies that were previously inaccessible to them. This increased access to diverse talent can greatly enrich a company’s workforce and improve its overall performance.
However, leaders must also consider the potential drawbacks, such as the possibility that remote workers may miss out on promotions, mentoring, and other professional opportunities. It’s crucial to ensure that remote employees are not unintentionally excluded from growth opportunities and are provided with adequate support and resources to succeed in their roles.
Navigating Trade-offs in the Remote and Hybrid Workplace
Every company is unique, and leaders must carefully consider the best approach to mentoring and supporting junior employees. Some potential trade-offs include the challenges of onboarding remote workers and fostering a sense of company culture. Remote employees may miss out on the camaraderie and social interactions that come with working in an office, which can impact their overall job satisfaction.
To address these concerns, Sadeghi suggests that companies can implement various strategies to create a sense of belonging and foster strong relationships among team members. These strategies can include virtual team-building exercises, regular check-ins, and video conferencing tools that allow for face-to-face communication.
Another trade-off to consider is the potential for increased flexibility in the hybrid and remote work model to negatively impact work-life balance. With blurred lines between work and home life, employees may struggle to maintain a healthy balance. To counteract this, leaders should encourage employees to set clear boundaries, establish a dedicated workspace, and prioritize self-care.
Additionally, organizations should prioritize ongoing learning and development opportunities for their remote and hybrid workforce. This can be done through virtual workshops, training sessions, and online resources that help employees stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments.
Best Practices for Mentoring Junior Employees in a Remote or Hybrid Environment
Here are some best practices that Sadeghi suggested:
- Establish clear communication channels: Make it easy for junior employees to reach out to their mentors and managers by setting up designated communication channels and protocols.
- Create a mentorship program: Pair junior employees with experienced colleagues who can provide guidance, share knowledge, and help them navigate the company culture.
- Provide regular feedback and performance reviews: Ensure that junior employees receive constructive feedback on their work and are aware of their progress toward career goals.
- Encourage networking and relationship building: Facilitate opportunities for junior employees to connect with their peers and other colleagues within the organization. This can be done through virtual events, coffee chats, or online forums.
- Offer professional development opportunities: Ensure that junior employees have access to resources and training that will help them grow and develop their skills.
- Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion: Encourage an inclusive environment that fosters diverse perspectives and experiences. This can be achieved by implementing diversity training programs, promoting diverse hiring practices, and creating a culture of inclusivity.
- Monitor and address mental health and well-being: Encourage employees to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This can be done by offering mental health resources, promoting flexible work arrangements, and emphasizing the importance of taking breaks.
The transition to remote and hybrid work models has created new challenges and opportunities for mentoring and supporting junior employees. By embracing these changes and prioritizing the needs of this generation, organizations can create a more inclusive, diverse, and productive workforce. Fostering the growth and development of junior employees is essential for their long-term success and the future success of the organizations they work for. By adapting these mentoring approaches and implementing best practices, leaders can ensure that the next generation of professionals will continue to thrive in the ever-evolving workplace landscape.
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Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on April 20, 2023