Forcing Your Employees Back To The Office Full-Time For Mentorship Isn't The Answer — This Is.


Praca, Oferty Pracy

Forcing Your Employees Back to The Office Full-Time for Mentorship Isn’t The Answer — This Is.

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Picture this: A large tech company decides to bring employees back to the office, believing it will encourage mentoring and support organizational continuity. For example, consider what Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in the spring of 2023. podcast: “For our new employees who come in, we know empirically that they perform better if they are in the office, meeting people, undergoing adaptation, training. If they are at home and don’t go through this process, we don’t think they are as successful.”


This is why Salesforce has decided to change its policy from its previous fully flexible model. For example, the company’s HR director Brent Hyder wrote in the company’s September 2022 issue. blog post that “at Salesforce, we never had office mandates and never will.” However, in the spring of 2023, Salesforce required sales and marketing staff to come into the office four days a week. We see a lot technology, finance and other leaders make similar statements and pursue similar policies.

To be sure, these changes at Salesforce and elsewhere represent well-intentioned moves to advance the careers and productivity of junior staff. Unfortunately, the data shows that in a post-pandemic world, they are wrong. Result? Resentful senior staff, lackluster mentoring and a sub-optimal work environment. Here’s why and how to fix it.

Broken Osmosis Strategy: When Senior Employees Feel Offended

Many executives, driven by memories of pre-pandemic times, believe that forcing employees to return to the office will naturally lead to mentoring and development. However, the pandemic has shown senior employees that they can be very productive outside of the office, and many of them are now resisting the idea of ​​returning. When I conducted focus groups during help 23 companies find out their return to office and hybrid work I have found that many senior employees who are forced to return to the office often show up, put on their headphones, and avoid interacting with anyone, which effectively negates the supposed effect of osmosis.


Take, for example, a former client, a regional insurance company, where senior employees, hurt by the forced return, became less available for mentoring, resulting in younger employees struggling to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities. As a result, the productivity of the insurance company and the morale of the employees suffered, and they hired me to help them solve this problem.

Related: Why Employers Forcing Back to Office Lead to Workforce Growth and Unionization

Mentoring mismatch: rewarding social skills over technical ability

A forced return to the office can lead to disparities in mentoring. The focus groups showed that the only junior staff mentored in this “forced return” scenario were those with strong initiative and social skills. Unfortunately, this approach fools those who need mentoring the most—employees who lack social skills and initiative. After all, mentoring is most needed by those who do not have strong initiative and social skills, as mentoring helps develop these soft skills. Moreover, strong social skills often do not correlate with the ability to do technical work well. Thus, those who receive mentoring often have excellent interpersonal skills but weaker technical skills.

In the case of a large professional services firm that asked me to advise them, this was exactly the situation. The beneficiaries of refoulement were those who were able to navigate social interactions skillfully, while technically skilled but socially awkward employees were left behind.


Another client running SaaS at a late stage experienced a similar situation. Employees with outstanding interpersonal skills managed to grab the attention of senior staff, while their peers with strong technical skills but weaker social abilities struggled to get the mentoring they needed. This imbalance can lead to skills shortages that will reduce the overall performance of the organization.

The Way Forward: Hybrid Mentoring Programs

Instead of forcing everyone back into the office and hoping for osmosis-based mentoring, a hybrid mentoring program should be created that includes elements of in-person and virtual mentoring. Such a program has been successfully implemented for several of my clients, such as the companies mentioned earlier. The result has been happier senior staff and more effective mentoring.

Why are senior employees more willing to come into the office for mentoring rather than on assignment? Well, my focus groups with senior employees showed that they overwhelmingly realized the value of personal mentoring: they not only received personal mentoring themselves, but also realized that personal communication is very important for building trust. This allows young people to be vulnerable when they ask questions that reveal vulnerability.

Such a policy does not require indiscriminate mandates to return to the office for three to five days a week: instead, it requires people to be in the office to perform certain assigned tasks. Senior employees are much happier and more likely to be supportive and happy to come into the office and enjoy mentoring when they know they have a good reason to be in the office for a mentoring meeting. They won’t be as outraged as they are about what seems to them to be an arbitrary return to the office, informed biased thinking that reflects pre-pandemic realities, leading to resistance, exhaustion, alienation and morale issues among senior employees.


On the contrary, experienced employees feel that their individual and specific experience and contributions are valued when they are asked to come to the office specifically for a mentoring meeting; moreover, they end up spending less time in the office if they have several mentor meetings per week than if they had to be in the office for three to five days. This way, CEOs get what they want, senior employees get what they want, and junior employees get what they want. A win-win option for everyone.

RELATED: The Surprising Reason So Many Managers Are Forcing Employees Back To The Office

Key Components of a Successful Hybrid Mentoring Program

In my experience, a hybrid mentor program requires several key actions:

  • Individual lunches with senior specialists: One-on-one interactions with senior professionals are the most effective form of mentoring, but given the time constraints of senior professionals, this should not be the only type of mentoring.
  • Virtual coffee roulette with senior professionals: Less time burden for senior professionals, allowing for more accessible mentoring mechanisms, albeit less effective than one-to-one lunch sessions.
  • Group lunches with senior specialists: A senior employee invites several junior employees to lunch, which facilitates the exchange of knowledge and building relationships with minimal time for senior specialists.
  • Group mentoring: A senior employee mentors a cohort of junior employees, creating a collaborative learning environment and reducing senior employees’ time.
  • Face-to-face coworking sessions: One senior and several junior employees work together on their individual tasks in shared office space for several hours. Junior team members can ask questions as they come in, while a senior staff member can check their work every half hour or so. This promotes teamwork and seamless transfer of knowledge, and reduces the burden on senior staff.
  • Virtual coworking sessions: Similar to in-person coworking, but conducted via video conferencing for more flexibility.

Successful mentoring programs include a number of important guiding principles:

  • Targeted mentoring: Ensure that mentoring programs have clear goals and incentives for maximum engagement and effectiveness. Align the program with the values ​​and goals of the organization so that both senior and junior employees understand its purpose and importance.
  • Regular ratings: Assess the progress and success of mentoring initiatives to ensure continuous improvement. Get feedback from both mentors and mentees and use it to refine and improve the program.
  • Mentor training and support: Provide senior staff with the skills and resources they need to be effective mentors. Offer training sessions to help them develop their coaching and communication skills, and provide ongoing support to ensure their success as a mentor.
  • Individuality and flexibility: Recognize that different employees have unique needs and develop a mentoring program that can be tailored to individual preferences and requirements. This approach will help maximize the impact and effectiveness of the program.
  • Accountability and follow-up: Set clear expectations for both mentors and mentees and track their progress throughout the mentoring period. Encourage regular reviews and follow-ups to make sure both parties are meeting their commitments and progressing towards their goals.

A bold new approach to the post-pandemic world

Key takeaway? Forcing employees to return to the office in hopes of mentoring through osmosis is a thing of the past. In a world where remote and hybrid work has become the norm, it’s time to adapt and implement hybrid mentoring programs that meet the needs of both senior and junior employees. Embrace this bold new approach and watch your organization thrive in the face of change.


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