Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Workforce development, staff support and eMentoring

Last week I was invited to attend the National Community Care Conference 2010 at the Gold Coast, Australia. At the conference I spoke about the eMentoring program I developed in conjunction with Aged Care Queensland in 2009.

Here are a few of my thoughts I talked about in regards to implementing an eMentoring program at work for staff support and development.

What is eMentoring?
We know support in the workplace increases staff recrutiment and retension. We also know mentoring is an effective support mechanism which increases staff job satisfaction and reduces workplace stress and burn out. However, geographical and professional isolation can make it difficult to access a mentor, let alone an appropriate mentor.

This is where eMentoring comes into its own. eMentoring is mentoring using online communication tools ranging from email, text messaging, web conferencing and web cam.

What are the advantages of eMentoring?
eMentoring allows you to access a wider range of people to be a mentor, making it easier for a mentor to meet the specific needs of a mentee. It is especially useful for people who are isolated and cannot access traditional face-to-face ementoring or professional development activitieis.

What are the issues you need to address in an eMentoring program?
  • Staff training - use of technology, how to conduct themselves in a mentoring relationship, how to communicate in a non face-to-face environment.
  • Confidentiality in the online environment and professional use of online resources.
  • Support of eMentoring program by employers and the rest of the staff.
  • Support of the participants in the program.
  • Support of technology by IT staff eg sorting firewalls so that staff can access technologies such as Skype.
My last thought:

A poorly designed and implemented eMentoring programme is worse than having no eMentoring program at all.

Have you had any experience of eMentoring, in a formal program or informal relationship? What were the highlights of the relationship and what didn't work so well?


Bronwyn hegarty said...

Hi sarah
I find e-mentoring a fascinating concept because I believe it must make the whole mentoring process so much easier for people. I am a bit confused though abut the difference between e-mentoring and communities of practice - perhaps you can enlighten me. I have a couple of questions cos I'm a curious fellow:
1. what suggestions do you have for selling e-mentoring to people who say time pressures prevent them from accessing mentoring?
2. would you recommend blended models of mentoring where feasible, and what are the advantages or disadvantages?
3. have you tried group mentoring online and does it work well?
4. Do the strategies you use for e-mentoring involve keeping written records of the process - like a journal or blog etc.?
I'm really interested in the whole idea of using dialogue for scaffolding reflective practice, and wonder whether verbal dialogue - synchronous (web-conferencing, telephone)regardless of if it is f2f or online or electronic provides the same outcomes as written dialogue - asynchrononous discussion, email etc. Do you know of any research on this? so many Qs. :( A fascinating topic eh.

Sarah Stewart said...

Gosh,'re wanting your money's worth. Here are quick answers to your answers...if you want longer answers, you'll have to wait for the blog posts :)

I see ementoring as more a focused personal, professional development activity - usually one-to-one, but may be small group whereas communities of practice are more generic...focused on the needs of a group of people, rather than the individual.

1. ementoring makes mentoring more flexible in regards to time management, and more mobile because you can do it where ever you can find a computer. But for people who are for ever finding excises like time, there's not much you can do with or for them.

2. yes, probably would recommend blended mentoring...F2F first so people can build a relationship, especially if they are not used to online interaction

3.I haven't tried group mentoring but I know someone who has and they have found it to be a very effective way of doing things.

4. I recommend you keep a written record of interactions. If you are using asynchronous methods of communication like email, you may want to keep an additional written reflective record of your thoughts.

Research - I do not of any research that compares written dialogue with verbal, but if I find any, I'll let you know.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

thanks sarah that is very helpful. I tried collaborative journalling online once as a peer mentoring exercise. It started off well but petered out due to the ole time thing.

I also had a mentor for a researhc project and it was all done online. I found the lack of feedback and slow responses from the mentor were quite inhibiting with regard to my progress. It has to be a two way relationship with negotiated expectations. Have you encountered fish hooks like this?

Sarah Stewart said...

No doubt about it, for a mentoring relationship to work both people have to be committed & have some sort of agreement about practicalities about responding to emails etc...if online relationship. In a formal mentoring program I would expect there to be some sort of formal, written agreement about expectations for both parties to adhere to. So to sell this sort of program to both mentors and mentees, they both have to see value for themselves and the greater context.