Conventionally, mentorship refers to a relationship between a mentor and a protege for personal development of the latter using the former’s experience and knowledge. “Taking under the wing” is a phrase that aptly describes mentorship. Mentoring in itself is a process where in there is an informal exchange of ideas, communication about experiences, wisdom, social knowledge, psychological support and guidance from the more experienced mentor to the lesser experienced mentee.
In today’s technologically advanced era, the Internet has made distances disappear virtually and E-mentoring has become the buzzword. E-mentoring is a form of technology-based learning. The Internet is the main factor on which E-mentoring depends. E-mentoring requires the mentors and the mentees to logon to a secure web environment where they can communicate with each other on a variety of work-related or personal issues.
E-mentoring involves pairing – essentially the mentor and the mentee. The quality of formation of this is critical to the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship. Cognitive matching is used in many cases where the pairing is based on cognitive levels of the mentor and the mentee. Apart from cognitive levels, matches are created using race, gender and personality aspects, the effectiveness of the different styles is a highly debated issue in E-mentoring.
E-mentoring is being used to mentor disadvantaged youth or youth with disabilities, who may not be able to make it to face-to-face mentoring sessions. E-mentoring is also used by seasoned professionals (mentors) in helping amateurs (mentees) make a smooth transition into the work world.
Advantages of E-Mentoring
E-mentoring gives a chance to give honest feedback. E-mentoring is gaining popularity because it is faster and takes lesser time than face-to-face mentoring. Time, distance and space constraints are obstacles that E-mentoring does away with, thus affording more flexibility and independence to mentors and mentees. Research has shown that there is no significant difference between face-to-face mentoring and E-mentoring as far as effectiveness is concerned. Video chatting and use of webcams have eliminated the impersonal feel of E-mentoring to a great extent.
Disadvantages of E-Mentoring
Limitations on ability to pick up visual or social cues, immediate feedback being difficult at times, and being viewed as an impersonal medium are some of the disadvantages of E-mentoring.
Despite these limitations, E-mentoring can be used in the workplace effectively to train employees, share knowledge, encourage and enhance employees’ work performance. Different media such as podcasts, instant messaging and newsletters can talk about the organization’s long-term view for E-mentoring programs using language that is participant-friendly. Videos can be used at training sessions or other related events to show how an employee has benefited from the E-mentoring program in the organization.
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