Conclusion and Recommendations
This report reflects important trends in the higher education IT workforce. Mentoring is a professional development activity that higher education IT professionals place great value on, even if they have not engaged in it. Indeed, among those surveyed, large majorities agreed that it provides a great contribution to their development, including pathways to IT executive leadership positions as well as an opportunity for reflecting on one's professional experiences in a safe space. Unfortunately, the rate of participation is somewhat less encouraging. Few (14%) higher education IT employees told us they were mentees, and only a third of respondents reported being mentors. There is an unfortunate disconnect between the perceived value of mentoring and its implementation at higher education institutions. Another challenge is that mentee requests are the most frequent means to establish a mentoring relationship, which places larger responsibility on (likely) less senior or younger staff to initiate a professional development activity that is highly valued as a career stepping-stone.
Underrepresented groups (women, ethnic minorities, and Millennials) all appear to be engaging in mentoring relationships at similar (if not higher) rates than other groups in the workforce, attesting to a strong desire to mentor and be mentored. However, as with the entire workforce, there's room to grow these mentoring activities among these underrepresented groups too. Worth considering is how the lack of adequate mentoring affects one's career. For example, senior women leaders in higher education identified the barriers stemming from lack of support that contribute to problems of leadership identity, differentiating gender-based expectations, lack of opportunity, and sabotage.1
This isn't all discouraging for our workforce. On the contrary, it demonstrates a high need that can be strategically addressed to increase representation, retention, job satisfaction, and career development for these IT professionals. We should encourage them to reach across institutions as well and think innovatively about how to leverage technology, nontraditional mentoring relationships (e.g., group mentoring), and peer and professional networks to meet mentoring needs. Our next steps should ensure that we engage not only with these underrepresented groups but also with older employees—even managers and executives—to determine and address their career development through mentoring relationships. It can benefit not only their individual careers but also the institutions they work for. This report and EDUCAUSE's online mentoring resources are good places for institutional staff and leaders to start exploring the opportunities that our workforce values and wants. We just need to take the first step to ensure we meet their needs.
- Encourage and sustain mentoring at your institution by communicating its value and how relationships are a catalyst for change for both mentors and protégés. Higher education IT professionals are already sold on the value of mentoring, but fewer are engaged in mentoring relationships than wish to be. Emphasize with employees that mentoring can occur casually and organically with established professional networks and can be facilitated through attendance at networking events (such as conferences). Tap into the potential on your campus.
- Cultivate partners to aid in establishing mentoring programs. Work with HR within your institution, collaborate with professional associations and consortia outside your institution, and explore interest among nearby institutions and corporations to pilot cross-organizational mentoring.
- Encourage potential mentors to seek out protégés. The responsibility of seeking a mentoring relationship should not fall solely on would-be protégés. This responsibility of seeking a mentor may create barriers to successfully engaging in mentoring relationships or decrease opportunities among young or newly hired staff. Potential mentors should seek out mentees by using both formal and informal means.
- Create formal mentoring programs to enable employees to engage in personal and professional development guided by the structure of the organization. Formal programs offer the opportunity to help protégés and mentors gain a better understanding of organizational culture, broaden their perspectives, increase leadership skills, and increase levels of employee engagement and retention.
- Prioritize mentoring for underrepresented groups in higher education IT. For women, ethnic minorities, and Millennials, this is particularly important if higher education IT seeks to increase diversity, increase retention, grow its own leaders, and ensure a workforce that is able to fill the gaps stemming from looming Baby Boomer retirements.
- Be open to developing a mentoring relationship with someone who differs in ethnicity, gender, or age—it can increase insights and perspectives on others' experiences in the workforce. It may also increase retention and job satisfaction among underrepresented groups in the higher education IT workforce. Reverse mentoring may offer substantial insights into other generations' perspectives and skill sets.
- Look outside your institution and engage with your professional network in order to cast a wide net for mentoring opportunities. When seeking a mentor or protégé, consider someone outside your institution. Such individuals can offer unique and fresh perspectives without fear of reprisal for honest communication regarding careers and organizational challenges.
- Consider group or peer mentoring as an option. If a one-on-one relationship can't be initiated, consider peer mentoring with colleagues sharing the same experiences, challenges, and goals. Group mentoring may be helpful for cohorts of employees who wish to be engaged in a more collaborative mentoring process, and it can maximize the time of senior institutional leaders who seek to mentor.
- Use technology to maximize available mentoring relationship opportunities. Taking advantage of platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, or other digital tools can create and facilitate connections and build and support rapport when faced with geographic or scheduling barriers.
- Identify the time frames for meeting with your mentor or protégé that work for both of you. There's no hard and fast rule for how often mentors and protégés should meet. Negotiate this time on the basis of need and other responsibilities. Keep in mind, however, that more frequent meetings are generally associated with more successful mentoring relationships.
Kelly Hannum, Shannon Muhly, Pamela Shockley-Zalabak, and Judith S. White, "Stories from the Summit Trail: Leadership Journeys of Senior Women in Higher Education," HERS–Higher Education Resource Services, August 2014.↩︎