Traditional Mentoring Vs. E- Mentoring: Their Benefits and Drawbacks

Published on
April 13, 2015

Mentoring is becoming more and more popular in the workplace, and many organizations are struggling to decide to implement a face-to-face mentoring program or a digital one. There are benefits and drawbacks to both methods, and you must understand them before moving forward with a mentoring program. Mentoring may be described as a strategic relationship based on trust.  

It is true regardless of whether the mentorship takes place in person or an online format. Trust is critical no matter the setting, and it is possible to build solid relationships both online and offline. Keep this in mind as you weigh your options.

Let's begin with face-to-face mentoring since it's the traditional format and is familiar to most people.

Offline/ Face-to-Face Mentoring - Benefits and Drawbacks

The benefits of traditional mentoring are pretty straightforward:

  1. It gives mentors and mentees a face to put to the name.
  1. Meetings are live and in-person, allowing participants to converse organically and learn each other's personalities and mannerisms.
  1. Many people are still more comfortable talking with a live person than typing on a computer since it feels more personal and authentic.  

Gaining answers to essential questions and working on tasks can be more accessible in person since both participants are present and focused. The primary drawback to traditional mentoring is that it is restricted to geographical proximity. Mentors and mentees must live or work near each other to make regular in-person meetings feasible. It inevitably means that concerns about location, availability, and convenience come into play.

In addition to limitations brought on by geographical necessity, communication between mentors and mentees can be limited with traditional mentoring. Younger or inexperienced businessmen and women often feel nervous or shy and hold back when they should be asking questions or offering information. In addition, face-to-face interactions with a powerful and experienced professional can be intimidating to someone just starting their field.

Online / E-mentoring – Benefits and Drawbacks

Traditional mentoring has geographical constraints, whereas e-mentoring does not. Mentors can meet at any time and in any location. Meetings can be organized at any time and in a variety of formats. If a mentee has a question, they can ping their mentor and check back later for the answer.  

Technology advancements such as mentor/mentee matching, video conferencing, and mobile technology have made it feasible to establish and run a successful mentorship purely online, without the mentors and mentees ever meeting in person. Participants can readily share networks and resources and track the mentorship's progress using e-mentoring.

All history of communication is in one place and accessible to both mentor and mentee at any time. In this sense, e-mentoring allows a mentorship to be even more "live" than traditional mentoring. The drawbacks of e-mentoring are few, but they must be considered when implementing a new mentoring program.  

By its very nature, e-mentoring requires both mentors and mentees to have easy access to technology, such as a computer or laptop, a reliable Internet connection, and a means of communication, like a mentoring platform, email service, or video conferencing program. Access to these components is growing worldwide, but their necessity can still challenge some people. In addition, interacting in a digital format can sometimes present challenges to engagement.

E-mentoring requires a certain level of self-direction that can be difficult for employees used to receiving instruction and having their work planned out for them. In addition, E-mentoring—and traditional mentoring, too—requires active participation from both mentor and mentee. Ensuring a high level of engagement should always be a primary goal with any mentoring relationship. If you're considering implementing a new mentorship program into the workplace, consider both the benefits and the drawbacks of the different formats.  

Talk to your managers and employees about what they hope to achieve from the program and how it can best be designed to meet their needs. It may be that you choose to take elements from traditional and e-mentoring and combine them to devise a unique mentoring program garnered for your team's success.

If this post resonated with you, check with your organization to see whether you are part of the MentorCloud network. If not, sign up for a demo here! Our vision is to create a mentoring planet where true equality is achieved, and hard work is rewarded, but it's only possible with your participation.

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