APU Business Original

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Mentoring for Business

By Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management

and Dr. Wanda Curlee
Department Chair, Business Administration

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused turbulent times in the business world. During 2021 and 2022, for example, many businesses experienced failures or began to lose employees. Those workers left their jobs to seek retirement or employment with a different company, a situation known as the “Great Resignation” or what some call the “Big Quit.” In fact, the rate of employees quitting their jobs is now higher than at any time in U.S. history.

The balance of power between employees and business leaders is being rewritten. Employees, rather than business leaders, are more in control of the workplace market.

Data is emerging about people seeking greater flexibility in their careers and focusing on a different lifestyle that includes a better work-life balance. With many people now having the ability to work from home, employees are even moving to other states to take advantage of a lower cost of living.

Related link: Determining Your 2022 Career Goals: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Taught Us Several Business Lessons

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is entering its third year, it has taught us several lessons. For instance, both small and large businesses will have to adjust their mindset to avoid the continuous loss of their personnel. Companies are focusing on new ways to attract and retain employees.

Similarly, the growth of waste by individuals and businesses has increased during the pandemic. That change has in turn affected the circular economy, a vital part of the reverse logistics involving items such as plastic and glass business products.

Local and state governments are working harder at controlling this waste, however. In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 77 to encourage colleges and universities to stop using plastic water bottles.

Related link: 3 Logistics Lessons We’ve Learned from COVID-19’s Masterclass

Mentoring Needs to Change as the Result of Workplace Market Changes

Serving as a business mentor has been equally impacted by this pandemic. As the result of all the changes occurring in the workplace, business mentors must adapt their mentoring to what their mentees need.

For instance, some mentees are seeking employment with greater flexibility. Other mentees – especially female caregivers – have to consider working from home and simultaneously caring for their school-age children who take online classes at home. Still other mentees have chosen to quit their jobs and create their own businesses.

There are some professions that have always had built-in mentors for new or very junior employees, such as nursing. But more businesses need to adopt the mentoring practices of the nursing industry.

Today, mentors are even available online. Online organizations can partner with businesses and mentor employees, so that they can be better workers and help their companies achieve business goals.

Some companies provide courses for their employees, especially their leadership, to be an effective mentor. There are also courses for mentees so that they can get the maximum benefit from the mentor-mentee relationship.

Mentoring is a collaborative process that can involve all levels of employees, ranging from new hires and junior employees to senior employees and executives. Collaboration is necessary to ensure company goals are met and to fulfill the needs of mentees. Those mentee needs could include learning a new skill, relearning a skill or fulfilling personal career goals.  

Mentoring in 2022 Will Involve Different Considerations for Mentors

Mentoring in 2022 will be different from previous years. Mentors and mentees will need to discuss the best ways for businesses to be successful and survive in these turbulent times.

Mentoring will involve much more than simply advising employees to follow a company’s goals. Business leaders will need to consider what each employee or potential employee thinks about working for their business.

Mentoring for business in 2022 should cover not only task and goal collaboration between business leaders and workers, but should also meet the personal safety and career needs of employees.

Even given our turbulent times, many companies still see their employees as their most valuable asset. But company policies and principles still remain a challenge, especially if this pandemic disruption becomes routine. However, 2022 will be a great time for mentors and mentees to meet and define their roles not only for this year, but through the next five years.

Contact the University If You Want to Become a Mentor

Mentors, also known as information-sharers, are highly motivated university community members who have prior experience to share with the community. Becoming a mentor comes with many benefits, but one of the most valuable is that it is a great way to give back.

We have all been there at that crossroads in our lives where we aren’t sure which way to go. Whether someone is seeking a new career path, is new to the online university experience, or struggles with time management or effective communication, a mentor can help mentees navigate these experiences because they have been through them before. If you’re ready to give back, contact the Mentoring team at mentor@apus.edu today.

About the Authors

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor in the Wallace E. Boston School of Business. He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. Dr. Hedgepeth was also Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics from 1985 to 1990, Fort Lee, Virginia. 

Dr. Wanda Curlee is the Department Chair of the Business Administration program. She has over 30 years of consulting and project management experience and has worked at several Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Curlee has a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, a MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and a M.A. and a B.A. in Spanish Studies from the University of Kentucky. She has published numerous articles and several books on project management.

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