L&D leaders everywhere know the value of peer mentoring and connecting people who are eager to share knowledge and learn.
But what do you do if your organization isn’t yet big enough to launch an internal mentoring program? And how can you connect people with mentors when they are the only person in the organization with that speciality?
In the first interview of 2023, I speak to Christina Seow, Senior Talent & Career Specialist at Gorgias, about her inter-organizational peer mentoring program that connects isolated roles with people in similar roles in other organizations.
Read on to hear about the challenge facing Gorgias that sparked their peer mentoring program, the benefits they are seeing, and how Christina and the team are measuring the initiative's impact.
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Since joining Gorgias in 2021, Christina has helped the company establish a learning management system to drive better learning outcomes.
“Our product is an e-commerce help desk. Our goal is to help the best merchants through exceptional customer service. It’s very important that teams are aware of how our program works so that we can share it with the rest of the world.”
“We found that it's crucial that everyone is aware of how, with automation and consolidation, you can really make someone’s life so much easier,” says Christina.
Looking for more tips on how to build a peer mentoring program? Download our cheat sheet: How to Design a Mentorship Program (That Employees Will Actually Enjoy)
A big challenge facing Gorgias is finding people with rich experience in a specific field within the organization to bounce ideas off and learn from.
“Even though we are 250 people,” Christina says, “I am the only one focused on the learning and development initiatives. Yes, I do have team members within the people team who are experienced in different topics in HR, talent acquisition, and so on, but no one is fully immersed in my specialty.”
“Additionally, many of us come from different industries and are new to the nuances of the tech industry. We can transfer skills, but I think it’s important to get some perspective to understand how to transfer the relevant knowledge best to excel in the tech sector,” Christina explains.
So, how is Christina helping transfer knowledge from the sector to her growing organization?
Christina explains that her manager Adeline Bodemer recognized that for Gorgias to succeed in the tech sector, they needed to build a network of peers within the industry.
“One great thing about being in the tech industry is that many companies encourage team members to have an attitude of continuous learning,” she says. “So, why not take advantage of this and learn from each other?”
Shortly after Adeline started in 2020, she launched a peer mentoring program where she collaborated with three other companies. Working with three other peers, they paired 20 people from five different teams to enable them to share and be one another’s buddies.
“In 2022, I expanded the program to 11 companies with participants from six different countries,” Christina explains. “We have found that many other organizations are in the same position and face the same challenge as us—employees can feel isolated as they are the only ones doing their role, and they have no idea who to turn to.”
Christina and the team found that the peer mentoring program allowed them to break that isolation of roles and connect with people they would otherwise not have.
“I'll give an example,” she explains, “I have connected with you, Audrey, through the L&D Collective, and now we have built an even stronger relationship through this program. So, we get an intention and can discuss a specific topic and what sorts of projects we are working on.”
The program is designed for people to understand what initiatives people are undertaking in their companies and their success rate. With this new-found knowledge, peers can look into their organizations and see if it could apply.
“I think that helps a lot in getting a different perspective, which I don’t think we could normally get if we had just asked our peers within our company.”
I think that helps a lot in getting a different perspective, which I don’t think we could normally get if we had just asked our peers within our company.
But how is Gorgias’ peer mentoring program different from a traditional mentoring one?
As Christina explains, a traditional mentoring program is based on someone who is more experienced mentoring someone who's less experienced.
“By all means, we encourage that, but with our peer mentoring program, the idea is to make people feel like they are equals. The program is an avenue for peers to brainstorm together, be each other’s sounding board, and be an accountability buddy,” she says.
As accountability buddies, peers can share how their projects are progressing, what they learned in the process, and make suggestions on how to move forward. “I think it’s a very interesting perspective because it’s a journey you share,” says Christina.
Gorgias’ peer mentoring program highlights the benefits of upskilling. By connecting specialized roles in different organizations, L&D leaders can better understand how to transfer the relevant knowledge and help their people excel in the tech sector.
So, what impact did Christina make within her organization and other organizations that participated?
Interested in signing up for Gorgias peer mentoring program this year? You can register your interest here.
Within Gorgias, Christina and the team have found that the program has helped people feel less isolated when facing challenges.
“I think that by connecting with a peer from a different company, people start to see that their challenge is quite common. We normalize the challenge, so it doesn’t seem so insurmountable,” she explains.
“Sometimes it’s not about finding the right answer because there is no right answer,” says Christina. “How one organization works might be very different to another organization, but the program gives a different perspective. Sometimes the peer organization might be more advanced and provide a red flag for the risks you must consider, which I think is fantastic.”
On a broader scale, Christina definitely sees the impact of the program. “It helps to build knowledge, break barriers, and make people more open to sharing knowledge,” she explains. “People are eager to share knowledge, but sometimes there isn’t a specific avenue, and our peer mentoring program is the way. That is a success as we push each other to improve daily.”
Based on two years of experience, Christina and the team want to make their peer mentoring program meaningful for those participating.
“We’re planning to run it again this year, but instead of running it for six months, we’re planning to run it from mid-April to mid-July so that people can have a little break after summer. That’s the official component. If people choose to keep in touch after that, by all means, they should,” she says.
While Christina understands that some companies prioritize internal mentoring, she has found that companies who have between 100 to 300 employees benefit significantly from an inter-organizational peer mentoring program.
“At the end of the day, we’re open to all. We had someone who solely represented his company as a knowledge manager last year, and he really enjoyed the experience. So, as long as you’re open to learning and sharing your experience, we’re happy to have you on board.”
Thanks to Christina for sharing her insights and experience with us!
For more expert advice and insights about mentoring, check out how Frédéric Voyer at My Job Glasses designs career mentoring by leveraging human connections or Johnathan Saller’s four-step approach to creating a mutually beneficial mentoring program at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.
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