APU Business Original

Using Today’s Technology to Enhance Mentoring Capabilities

By Dr. Novadean Watson-Williams
Department Chair, Information Technology Management, Information Technology and Computer Technology

and Dr. Bryan Jensen
Faculty Member, Information Technology

How much of an impact has technology had on your life? Most people would respond that technology has had a glaring and clamoring impact on all facets of their lives.

It is true that the noise and constant hammering of technological demands in our professional and personal lives have resulted in mental and physical ailments. These ailments include stress and anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood swings, digital overload, and physical impairment.

But while technology has disrupted our lives in some ways, it has enhanced it in other ways. For instance, technology has changed how mentors apply their mentoring skills and know-how.

What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring allows the imparting of knowledge, skills, attitude, and values from an experienced person to help a mentee. This exchange of information is intended to allow the mentee to develop emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, ethically, personally and professionally.

Mentoring also helps individuals to become more sound, healthy, and mature in how they behave and react to changes. Experts argue that true mentoring is not just “checking the box,” but instead a deliberate effort to build a relationship, encourage, and lead in a manner that develops, molds, and directs an individual for the better.

Rik Bennett, author of the white paper “The Role of Technology in the Mentoring and Coaching of Teachers,” further explains mentoring. He observes, “Whilst definitions of mentoring and coaching abound and it is not always easy to reach some sort of consensus, it would appear that it is convenient to assume that mentoring is often regarded as a longer-term management tool for guiding an individual along a predetermined pathway.”

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

Using Technologies to Support Mentoring

Some of the more commonly used technologies to support mentoring and make it more affordable, effective, and accessible include:

  • Mobile health applications and mentoring apps to detect changes in behavior and to signal the need for immediate help, such as MentorcliQ, Chronus, Qooper, Mentorlink, Together Enterprise Mentoring, eMentorConnect, Mentorloop, MentorCloud and Ellen
  • Website videos and other Web-based resources
  • Virtual learning environments
  • Video conferences
  • Social communities
  • Dashboards and reporting features to track engagement and progress
  • Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting and Webex

The National Institute of Mental Health notes that there are advantages to using technology for mental health counseling, and the same principles also apply to mentoring:

  • Convenience: Conferences can take place anytime and anywhere (e.g., at home in the middle of the night or on a bus on the way to work) and may be ideal for those who have trouble with in-person appointments.
  • Anonymity: Clients can get help without involving other people.
  • Lower cost: Some apps are free or low-cost.
  • Service to more people: Technology can help people located in remote areas or to many people in times of sudden need.
  • Interest: Some technologies might be more appealing to use than traditional forms of mental health care or mentoring.
  • 24-hour service: Technology can provide round-the-clock monitoring or support.
  • Consistency: Technology can offer the same programming to all users.
  • Support: Technology can complement traditional forms of therapy or counseling by extending an in-person session, reinforcing new skills, and providing support and monitoring.
  • Objective data collection: Technology can quantitatively collect information such as location, movement, phone use, and other information.

Using technology to support mentoring is advisable and worthwhile. Moreover, to afford a certain consistency and caliber of mentoring in today’s culture, using technology may be necessary.

Technology has also played a major role in mentoring during the COVID-19 pandemic as academic institutions have switched their delivery methods from the conventional classroom environment to an online model to facilitate learning and mentoring. According to a study conducted by Dr. Carol Mullen in online doctoral mentoring during COVID-19, she found that online mentoring was instrumental in facilitating success during a crisis by allowing access to students through technology.  

Dr. Mullen observes, “In the pandemic, educational institutions are heavily relying on distance education, many with depleted resources. Nonetheless, visibility needs to be given to mentorship and supports to faculty members who provide high-quality online guidance in times of crises, pandemics, and social distancing.”

Mentoring should be a constant requirement, regardless of one’s organization. It should align with annual training and development often promoted in most institutions, especially if businesses and organizations would like to see a rewarding return on its investments.

Related link: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Mentoring for Business

Jay Fitzgerald, a Harvard Business School writer, notes, “With so much in flux, it might be tempting for companies to make mentoring voluntary, but companies would be better off making mentoring mandatory for all new workers since that would yield much higher productivity and performance gains, the researchers say.”

He adds, “Newly hired employees at a United States call center who received on-the-job advice from experienced employees outperformed non-mentored workers by 18 percent, and they also tended to stay with the company longer, according to a recent study by Harvard Business School professor Christopher T. Stanton and three other scholars. But when participation is optional, the people who could benefit most are often the least likely to seek it out, the researchers discovered.”

Assuredly, mentoring is essential today, especially since many people are becoming more isolated due to the pandemic and other social changes. Companies and organizations will find it beneficial to use technologies to mentor and develop individuals.

Brad Zepecki, the founder and CEO of Octavian Technology Group, states, “It’s become clear to me, in my experience, that mentoring in the IT industry is crucial, but it’s also an industry of lone wolves, who sometimes prefer to take an independent path. Yet communication, engagement, and social connections are vital to anyone’s career success (let alone learning and grasping the next new concept).”

Society must remember that its members will benefit from mentoring. However, using technology to enhance the mentoring experience and delivery is essential if there is to be lasting impact.

About the Authors

Dr. Novadean Watson-Williams is currently the Department Chair for the undergraduate programs in Information Technology Management and Computer Technology and the graduate program in Information Technology. She serves an aggressively growing department and has over 20 years of experience in the information technology field. Dr. Watson-Williams holds an A.A. in Computer Studies and a B.S. in information systems management from the University of Maryland University College, a B.S. in social science education from the University of South Florida, an M.A. in General Counseling from Louisiana Tech University, and a D.B.A. in information systems from Argosy University. 

Previously, she published several blog articles on topics such as “Countering Cybersecurity Attacks through Accountability,” “Creating a Personal Brand through Using the Internet,” “Leadership Using Effective Nonverbal Communication,” and “Inspiring Self-Improvement through Technology Education, Collective Intelligence and Soft Skills.” She has also co-published several other articles, including “RFID with Real Implications,” “Artificial Intelligence in Information Security” and “Evolution of Information Security.”

Dr. Bryan Jensen is currently an adjunct instructor working for Dr. Watson-Williams in the undergraduate and graduate programs in information technology. He has over 26 years of experience in the information technology field and over 20 years of experience teaching online.  Dr. Jensen holds a D.B.A in Business Administration and Information Security from Northcentral University, an M.S. in Computer Information Systems from Bellevue University, a B.S. in Computer Information Systems and an A.A.S. in Data Processing from Cameron University, and an A.A. in Business Administration from Frederick Community College. 

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