E-mentoring: A tool for federal workers

Mentoring is an increasingly popular trend in government. Now, federal officials are offering mentoring as an online service.

Office of Personnel Management officials have added electronic mentoring, or e-mentoring, to OPM's multiagency Web portal, GoLearn.gov. Portal users can find experts in their fields in minutes. About 20,000 visitors have used this feature since its introduction in January 2004, according to OPM officials, who have recently upgraded the service.

"There needs to be a resource for which people can capture experienced knowledge," said Jeff Pon, deputy director of the agency's

e-government program. "I think the utilization of mentoring is just the start."

A survey conducted last year shows that senior-level executives recognize the value of mentors. More than half said a mentor helped them succeed. But 60 percent of the women and 72 percent of the men didn't have one.

"There's more evidence that cites the benefits of mentoring," said Delores Bernardo, a senior associate at Catalyst, the New York-based think tank that conducted the study. But "the lack of access ...is a big problem."

Mentoring can divert time and money from other job training programs, Bernardo said. And some organizations don't have enough top-level mentors to coach employees. "E-mentoring is a way to circumvent" those problems, she said.

By folding e-mentoring into the larger e-Training initiative, which is part of the President's Management Agenda, OPM officials have linked e-mentoring to other courses and programs.

Pon said the goal is "to really have customers get what they need in a short amount of time." E-mentoring is "a personal resource and a network opportunity."

To use GoLearn's tool, federal employees enroll in a free GoLearn course. Once logged on or in the portal's virtual classrooms, they click on a mentoring icon for a specific topic. Then, they connect with a specialist in that area. Vendor Global Mentoring supplies experts for the portal.

OPM officials also provide the service to other agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Energy Department; and the General Services Administration.

Unlike GoLearn's help desk, which gives a scripted solution, e-mentoring teaches "people how to solve their problems," Pon said. "It takes it a step further."

Scott Wortman, GoLearn's client services manager, experienced the difference. When he was creating a training report in Microsoft Excel, Wortman said, "I went to a lesson and was kind of getting it, but needed some extra help. Within half a minute, I'm talking with a mentor. It's like having a personal assistant sitting there with you."

Not all managers have spread the word about the resource. As of early December 2004, only 10 percent of GoLearn's registered users had tried e-mentoring, according to OPM officials. Agency officials are trying to publicize the service and increase its visibility on the Web site.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that e-mentoring will become more popular. For example, "women with mentors are more likely to be promoted than those without," Bernardo said.

"With the workforce being global," Bernardo said, e-mentoring becomes "a key way to connect people who might not otherwise be able to form relationships because of geographic boundaries."

But the tool has limitations. OPM's e-mentoring service "is a good step moving forward, but when you meet in person, face to face, that is a different feeling," said Anitha Raj, vice chairwoman of the Women in Technology International's mentor/protégé program. "In terms of really getting the mentorship, it has to be going back and forth instantaneously."

GoLearn also doesn't offer instant messaging. But guidance, whether online or off-line, is essential to recruiting and retaining talent. "Mentoring is on the rise," Raj said. "Many companies are introducing it."

Lisagor is a Chicago-based freelance writer.

Finding a mentor

Women who have mentors are more likely to climb higher up the workforce ladder, experts say. Whether you're looking for a mentor or want to help someone else, check out the following resources.

n The Gov Online Learning Center's multiagency Web portal (www.golearn.gov) offers online mentoring to registered users. Private-sector employees can turn to MentorNet (www.mentornet.net), a nonprofit group that provides online mentoring for women in science and engineering.

n Women in Technology International's five-month mentor/protégé program pairs up about 60 people. Industry and government workers can participate.

— Megan Lisagor

NEXT STORY: The Platts Plan

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.