The Missing Link To Supercharge Your People
structured mentoring program can provide substantial
benefits to your company.
By Donna L. Horkey
is a far more powerful retention and development tool
than many managers may realize. The challenge of helping
clients make a meaningful investment in their people
on a limited budget led me to create my own model of
what mentoring should be and how it should be delivered.
My methodology has a threefold purpose:
most recent research done for the American Management
Association (Shea, 1994) states that mentoring has
become the method of choice to tackle many modern business
challenges, including breaking through the glass ceiling,
career enhancement, work force diversity, team building,
total quality management, leadership development, accelerated
transfer of technical skills and knowledge, and rebuilding
organizational trust after downsizing.
Establish a targeted, structured mentoring program.
Build in customization for the organization's culture.
the program develop into a self-fueling system.
There are many alternatives available to accomplish
these goals, so why should mentoring be your method
of choice? Here are 10 great benefits of a structured
high performance employees a reason to stay with
the company even if there are no immediate advancement
you to make appropriate matches between mentor and
you to provide some standardized training.
participants to focus on specific skills development.
you to move the mentees from mentor to mentor, as
to the bottom line by improving the organization's
most important asset - its employees.
a simple system to track success.
creates the next generation of mentors.
good will and great public relations.
Before establishing your mentoring program, determine
the exact results you wish to achieve and then work
backwards to create the appropriate success formula
for your organization. It may behoove you to offer some
form of mentoring to all levels of your work force.
Most organizations have a one-tier system, usually aimed
at mid- to upper-level personnel. But a second approach,
the two-tier system, is becoming more popular as companies
are developing greater sensitivity to their employees'
needs, particularly in those organizations that have
recently experienced a downsizing or restructuring.
The two-tier system adds on a second level to allow
new and/or entry-level employees to participate in the
program. This is a system you should think about if
your goals include helping people get acclimated, offering
personalized professional development at all levels
or improving workers' job performance. This model also
allows you to use mentoring as a recruiting tool.
In order to create a program that clearly meets the
needs of your particular organization and employees,
begin by identifying the answers to these questions:
will determine who qualifies to participate?
the candidates personally apply, be nominated or
be invited to participate?
qualifies to be a mentor and a mentee?
should be the minimum tenure requirements to qualify
there certain traits and characteristics that participants
participants have attained a certain level of education?
participants be involved in a certain type or number
of civic and/or professional organizations?
the organization contain a culturally diverse population
and should that be statistically reflected in the
As you move into the matching phase, don't lose sight
of the desired outcomes of your program. Keep focused
on the goal of developing skills and competencies. This
will enable you to avoid costly mistakes in pairing
your mentors and mentees.
Traditional mentoring programs have been centered on
an informal matching process, meaning that mentors and
mentees are permitted to choose each other based on
their own perceived comfort level or compatibility.
This fallacious thinking may prove the downfall of many
mentoring programs that will later be described by administration
as simply "never getting of the ground" with
no further explanation.
This is because the criterion of "liking each other"
should not be part of the methodology for pairing mentors
and mentees; in fact, it is actually the smallest concern
in a skill-based model.
People who are different from one another have more
to offer each other, because their strengths and skills
are complementary. And the irony is that, in truth,
the people we can learn from the most are frequently
the people we like the least.
The second frequently made error is to have an employee
be mentored by the immediate supervisor. This detracts
from the mentee's ability to ask questions and discuss
problems with impunity.
The third error is suggesting that mentees select the
person they most admire or would like to learn from
The problem with this? There are one or two people that
everyone wants! This means they get burned out too quickly
due to overuse.
To make the matching process impartial and competency-based,
assessments are used to determine the strengths and
weaknesses of both the mentor and the mentee. These
assessments look at a variety of competencies needed
to get and stay ahead in today's fast-paced workplace.
Keys to Orientation
The orientation phase of this model consists of tree
parts: the initial meeting, the communication skills
training module and the listening skills training module.
The initial meeting between mentors and mentees should
be set up as a social event, making it different from
just another meeting (for people who are probably already
feeling meeting-ed to death!).
After a planned icebreaker or just some socializing
and informal exchange, mentor and mentee teams are announced,
provided with a structured interview form and encouraged
to go someplace private where they can both feel comfortable
while completing the form.
The formality of a predetermined questionnaire and the
time constraint give both parties something to focus
on to diffuse the tension of the first meeting. It also
reinforces the it's OK for them to express their expectations
of one another and to be honest with each other.
Some basic ideas on the roles of a mentor should be
proffered at this time.
A mentor must stay focused on his or her role and responsibilities:
to act as a sounding board, to brainstorm solutions,
to share personal experiences. It is the mentee's role
to act, to do, to change. Remember, good mentoring teaches
an individual to think.
mentor is a teacher, not a manager.
mentor is a big brother or sister, not a boss.
mentor offers critique, not criticism.
The training modules that complete the orientation phase
are half-day programs that can be delivered together
or separately. They cover communication and listening
skills for both mentors and mentees. Both participants
need both skill for the team to be successful.
The nature of the relationship and the format of the
actual one-on-one meetings between mentors and mentees
will largely be determined by the teams themselves.
Some mentors may feel it is necessary, or may simply
be more comfortable, taking the lead in each discussion.
They may follow a simple series of questions each time,
or they may decide to permit the mood or needs of the
mentees to determine the format of their meetings.
Perhaps the ideal framework would be to outline the
key items that need to be worked on at each meeting
then allow the mentee to take the lead by offering information,
thoughts and judgments before receiving feedback from
Or the mentee may present a situation with a series
of questions he himself has designed to help him exercise
better judgment and skill in the future.
What issues are appropriate for discussion by mentor
teams? Many mentees' concerns center around interpersonal
issues as they cultivate new professional relationships
and try to establish themselves in the organization,
you can see, most of these are not issues that have
absolute answers. Rather, these are challenges that
require thoughtful consideration in terms of proactive
and reactive behaviors. The mentor must ask the right
questions in order to help the mentee come up with the
supervisor won't give me anything challenging to
can tell that my supervisor resents/doesn't like
that I'm in this mentoring program.
not sure what my career path should be.
spouse/significant other feels I'm spending too
much time at work.
I go to my boss with a good idea, he always tells
me why it won't work or what's wrong with it.
I go to my boss with an idea she thinks is good
and decides to use, she takes all the credit herself.
co-workers are jealous of the fast track I'm on
and all the attention I'm getting from management.
co-workers are all so slow/lazy/negative.
want to go back to school for my MBA, but I don't
want to jeopardize my career path with the company.
Situations may arise in which the mentor feels some
form of intervention on his/her part would be beneficial
to the mentee. It is imperative that you establish clear
guidelines about what types of intervention are permissible,
particularly where the mentees' relationships with their
managers are an issue.
Look to your company's policies and procedures to assist
you in setting reasonable intervention standards.
As the HR administrator of this program, you should
not become involved in the actual mentor/mentee relationship,
except in certain extreme circumstances, such as:
irreconcilable conflict arises between mentor and
manager feels the mentor is not having a positive
effect on the mentee.
mentee has learned what he/she can from the mentor
and is ready to be assigned to another mentor.
mentee is not maximizing the benefits of the mentor
Most companies today are willing to make some investment
in their human assets, but in return they demand positive
long-term effects for both the people and the organization.
These effects are best derived from a formal mentoring
program with up-front expectations, measurable progress
points and back-end results.
The decision of who will administer your program is
an important one. The program should have one person
who is the coordinator.
I you have an experienced trainer or recruiter on staff
with heavy interpersonal skills, this person would be
a good choice.
One of the user-friendly goals of this model is minimal
paperwork, but there are several vital pieces of information
that must be recorded, such as mentor teams, commencement
dates, orientation and training dates, periodic and
final assessment interviews, and progress reports.
A quarterly written summary should be submitted by the
coordinator for your review. It should include a progress
overview on each mentor team and an estimate of company
hours/dollars spent on the program.
For years, we HR professionals have been accused of
being too touchy-feely, too people-oriented and not
concerned with profits, budgets and cold hard dollars.
Many of us have scrambled to prove our ability to make
HR a profit center and to become more operations-focused.
A mentoring program can illustrate your efforts.
Be prepared to provide your management team with the
your program is operating effectively when you pull
all these numbers together, you will see a healthy cost/benefit
ratio that validates your mentoring program as a win-win-win
cost of mentors' and mentees' time spent in team
meetings during business hours.
cost of program materials and consultant fees (if
value of the coaching and training the mentee is
getting at no extra charge to the company (typical
HR management consultants earn between $100-$250
value of retaining an employee who now offers the
company more knowledge, skills and abilities (calculate
this by reviewing wage and salary surveys to determine
what you would have to pay on the open market to
hire a person who already possesses the desired
skills, plus the cost associated with the hiring,
orientation and training of such a person).
Your management team will recognize both the overall
long-term cost savings, and the upgraded skills and
contributions of existing employees.
By implementing this mentoring model, you will have
more empowered employees who are willing to go beyond
their job descriptions, share their knowledge and skills
with others, and think.
You will will also have the satisfaction of knowing
that you have simultaneously improved both productivity
and morale, a feat most managers would be thrilled to
Good luck and good mentoring!
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