Awhile back, Vicki Davis wrote an excellent post on how she had used Skype, a headset and a webcam to bring business people as "virtual volunteers" into her classroom where they could share their experiences with her students and respond to their questions right from their offices. It occurs to me this morning that with the impending wave of retiring Baby Boomers and a mounting need for Gen X and Millenials to receive ongoing guidance, technology-enabled mentoring might fill a real gap.
Some of the benefits I see:
- Experienced managers could "meet" with individuals or groups of employees using Skype or oovoo from anywhere in the world. So if you wanted to retire to Florida, you could still mentor someone in Fresno.
- By recording some of the mentoring sessions, an organization might begin to build (or add to) their knowledge base. I could see, for example, an experienced mentor discussing how to handle a management issue or strategies for connecting to clients. This interaction could be recorded and maintained in an organizational wiki or private Ning community for later viewing by other members of the organization.
- Mentoring could happen across organizations, via professional associations and industry groups. In the nonprofit sector, for example, there's a real concern about the transfer of knowledge to the next generation. Most nonprofits are fairly small so finding mentors only within an organization could be a challenge. But with technology, mentoring groups could be set up that cut across geography and time zones and allow the very best people in a particular function to share their knowledge with mentees from a variety of organizations.
- One of the challenges to mentoring is finding the time for it. Using a technology-enabled approach, mentors could take an hour right from their desks, causing minimal disruption to their work day.
Of course mentoring relationships definitely benefit from face-to-face interactions, so where possible, I'd see this as a potential supplement to personal meetings. But particularly in those cases where it may be difficult to find a mentor or where mentors are not physically able to meet with their "mentees," I see a technology-supported approach as a real potential option.
What do you think? Is this something that could work? Have you seen successful examples of organizations using technology-enabled mentoring?
Photo via Vicki Davis