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Mentoring Up

Has your company taken the standard professional mentoring model – veteran employees taking newbies under their wings to show them how things are done – and turned it upside down? Our clients are finding these types of “mentoring up” programs particularly valuable right now. Today, newly minted professionals typically come on board with an abundance of technological skills. They arrive at their first jobs with more than a decade of hands-on tech experience, not just in word processing and database manipulation, but in slide deck creation, secure online research, and all types of software. These skills enable them to do their jobs with less help from the IT department and administrative assistants. Some long-term employees, on the other hand, struggle with the technology that is now used routinely in offices. This month, those employees are feeling particularly frustrated as they apply their tech skills to a new work-from-home model. They are spending an inordinate amount of time working through the process of their work before they can attend to its substance. The result? They are turning to the IT department’s ticket queue for help on fundamental tech issues that their own junior team members could easily address—quickly and efficiently. Why not start connecting team members in your office with the specific goal of having one person help another with technology tasks they’ve not yet mastered: converting documents to PDF, saving and forwarding screen shots, removing/inserting/reordering pages in Adobe, accessing shared drives, editing slides, redacting documents, and so on. It’s best to start slowly, with employees on both sides who are eager for the opportunity. Managers usually know who needs this kind of help; they also know who can supply it. They can connect pairs who are open to the experience and will work well together. Select newer employees who will appreciate the acknowledgement of their skills and veteran employees who will appreciate the sharing of those skills. The goal is to create new, positive connections among colleagues—connections that will lead to more professional collaboration and better interpersonal communication. Begin by asking for volunteers and work up to providing a program for anyone who’s interested. Then stand back while productivity flourishes and workplace relationships grow stronger.

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