The Best Of Both Worlds: Mentoring A Hybrid Team To Maximise Collaboration 

In recent years, it’s become clear just how effective mentorship is in the workplace. A 2019 survey found that more than 90 percent of employees with a mentor are satisfied in their roles. In addition, 79 percent agree their compensation is fair, while 89 percent feel their contributions are valued. But now in 2021, during the current remote and hybrid team work revolution, mentorship is not only beneficial—it’s critical. 

According to a joint Harvard Business Review research by CEOs Marianna Tu and Michael Li, strong mentorship yields two important outcomes: it builds team connection, and reinforces clarity of purpose – both of which positively impacts employee retention. 

This is particularly true in the hybrid workplace, where hybrid teams are about 1.27 times more prone to disconnect than fully onsite workers, Gartner reports. While hybrid teams appreciate the flexible nature of this business model, challenges such as virtual overload, digital distractions, and an “always-on” mindset can exacerbate fatigue or burnout. 

To combat this issue, mentorship must be at the forefront of your management approach. Here are a few strategies to use, both in the office and remotely, to ensure that hybrid workers reap the benefits of mentorship—and boost their collaboration in the process.  

Invest in strong one-to-one relationships 

At the height of the pandemic, many business leaders scrambled to offer virtual team-building. But as research in BBC Work Life indicates, these group activities can be mentally draining which leads to distraction and impairs cohesion. The report author, Zaria Gorvett, explains: “It’s nearly impossible to provide specialised attention via a group video call to make people feel like they matter.” 

Instead of ineffective team-building efforts, focus more closely on bolstering the relationships between each individual mentor and mentee pairing.   

“Investing time in meaningful, deep connections with individuals, one-on-one, can be a refreshing change and a chance to establish more authentic connections. Guided dialogue and discussion questions will help mentoring pairs uncover their common humanity—no matter how different they might seem on the surface,” explains Michael Li, CEO of the Data Incubator, in the HBR article referenced earlier. “Regular virtual one-on-ones provide a unique opportunity for building rapport that isn’t possible in group settings.” 

Ensure you have a healthy mix of group meetings and activities as well as mentor interactions, to provide the best experience for your hybrid team.   

Leverage the right communication tools

Due to the lack of proximity, remote or hybrid employees tend to experience more affinity distance than other teams do. As such, distributed work might impact the effectiveness of mentorship and collaboration. Moreover, this disconnection can cause interdependence, as well as affect organisational trust and values, according to the virtual communication experts at 4PSA. However, you can counteract affinity distance with the right communication tools to promote an “open, inclusive, reliable, and consistent flow of dialogue.” 

Here are some of their top recommendations for using communication tools to bridge any distance-related issues:

  • Take advantage of video meetings so participants can see facial expressions and body language cues.
  • Make sure everyone’s on the same page with small details such as shorthand, jargon, and meeting times. 
  • Practice clear and concise communication, but don’t make it so brief that it’s hard to understand.
  • Include socialisation time in your meetings. Don’t neglect the relationship-building benefits of informal conversation. 

Focus on organisational values and goals

Solid mentorship does more than just improve collaboration between the team members paired together. It can result in a more aligned, collaborative workplace as a whole. But to accomplish this, mentorship goals must reflect a company’s broader values, mission, and culture. 

Employees are most productive when “their individual needs and the needs of the organisation are in sync […] A mentor can be a bridge between individual and organisational needs, between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards,” says business leadership and wellness coach Naz Beheshti

As you create or update your mentorship programme, ask yourself these questions to embed the values right for you:   

  • Skills Development: Does the mentor help their mentee learn new skills and hone existing ones that will then lead to career advancement? 
  • Creativity and Innovation: Does the mentor teach their mentee how to approach ideas or solve problems from unique, multi-dimensional angles?
  • Equity and Inclusion: Does the mentor advocate for their mentee’s access to equitable opportunities? (This is especially vital for racial and gender minorities).
  • Mission Alignment: Does the mentor contextualise how their mentee fits into the larger ecosystem both within the team and organisation? 

Encourage this dynamic to be reciprocal

Traditional mentor-mentee dynamics focus on the established senior-level person coaching the newer junior-level recruit. But reciprocal mentorship is synergistic for the benefit of all parties concerned. Each employee—despite their longevity on the team—acts as both a mentor and mentee, which promotes what Sanghamitra Chaudhuri calls a “learning economy.” With this model, “everyone is a guide because everyone has knowledge to share,” she explains.

Reciprocal mentoring is a chance to learn from different perspectives in the hybrid workplace across various job descriptions, age brackets, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and so on. This diverse exchange of ideas, views, and proficiencies can “transform a hierarchical culture into a more inclusive and collaborative environment where everyone’s input is valued, and everyone can make an impact,” Chaudhuri continues. It also fosters confidence and leadership potential, so each team member is more effective in their role. 

Mentorship Is the way forward for hybrid collaboration

In a hybrid structure, where connection and consistency are often hard to maintain, a strong culture of mentorship can make all the difference. Not only will this increase the bonds of trust and collaboration on your team, but it will also help to create a more enjoyable and meaningful work experience across the board.

Author: Tracy Ring is a freelance writer and content marketer; she draws her inspiration from real-life perspectives about the intersection of mental health and workplace trends. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter

Photo credit: Robert Churchill, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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