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Do you have a mentor program at your company? Is it effective?

Mentor programs can be a great way to develop employees at any stage in their career. In my opinion, the success of the program is really dependent on the mentee. The program should also be loosely structured meaning a mentor should not be assigned. To explain further, the mentee needs to actively meet or court potential mentors. The goal during the courting phase should be to uncover how a potential mentor strengthens the mentee's skills or gaps. It should not be to find the one mentor that has everything in common. Do you agree or disagree? If your organization has a flourishing mentor program, what worked? But more importantly, what didn't? I'd love to learn more from everyone here.

Comments

  • Great topic Mike,

    In my last role, I am proud to say that we built an effective mentoring program, albeit in only one department in the company.  While at the company before that, I took the initiative myself to seek out a mentor that could help me shore up my own weaknesses, but as a leader I recognized that not every employee I brought on felt safe or comfortable enough to reach out.  

    As such, we took it upon ourselves (as directors of the department) to do the following:

    • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of each new employee at roughly the 30 day mark
    • Have the new employee complete an assessment about their own perceived strengths and weaknesses
    • Offer the mentee 2-3 options of mentors within the company based on a match between the strengths of the mentors and weaknesses of the mentees (we found this to be far more successful than only offering ONE option)
    • Once selected, each director worked with both the mentor and mentee separately to “guide” the process of shoring up the mentee’s weaknesses
    • Compensate the mentor for their time
    • Periodically reassess the mentee and have them reassess themselves

    What we found after running this for 3 years:

    • We had much broader engagement with mentorship across the company within that department
    • Objective improvement in the performance of mentees
    • Subjective feedback was overwhelmingly positive
    • Mentors became more invested in the success of the department
    • Faster times to reaching key performance benchmarks among mentees
    • Mentors spontaneously engaged with each other for optimal strategies in helping mentees grow

    In this manner, we “facilitated” the mentorship without “fabricating” it (to your point about the dependence on the mentee initiating the relationship).

    Hope that helps!

  • Wow, great details @Mark Reinke and what a thoughtful approach to building leadership at every level and focusing on employee development.

    I have had the pleasure of being both a mentee and a mentor and believe that mentorship is essential for growth, development and self improvement. Ultimately it is up to each one of us to drive our own development. People can help you along your path but each employee should be responsible for driving positive change.

    When an organization has a program in place, that's fantastic and hopefully it increases the amount of people who take advantage. From my experience- you get what you put in. I have seen very organized programs fail because people felt like they "had" to do it vs wanted to grow and learn. I have also seen mentorship thrive in companies which had no structure for it because the people involved where so dedicated.

    I believe everything starts from an employee acknowledging they are ready to work on something and willing to be vulnerable and ask for help. If there is a program in place- great!, if not, go seek your managers advice, or got to your HR/People partners. If those are not an option- think about the person you respect the most in your business or in your life! (Mentors can be found in our life outside of work- ask @Ted Olson )

    My advice to all the leaders out there, if you have the time and energy to mentor, do it! Find someone on your team or someone in your life and grab a coffee and a chat. Things don't always need to be formal to be effective.

  • Really interesting thread going here! I participate in a mentor program through the local Chamber of Commerce. There's an application process for both mentors and mentees, then the program facilitators match people up based on interests/occupation/what the mentee wants to work on that the mentor can offer insight into.

    Much like your suggestion, it's unstructured. We are responsible for reaching out to each other and getting together. In the past few months, we've met for coffee, lunch, served at the local soup kitchen, and gone for walks in the park as we talked. Kind of like our 1:1s here at PI, I come prepared with questions and things I'd like to work on, but it's also a give and take, so sometimes we talk about struggles he experiences at work or in different roles.

    It's been extraordinarily helpful to get outside perspective from someone with experience who can help me navigate different situations. An internal mentoring program could be phenomenal for employees, but I think getting that outside perspective really helps, too.

  • Great question Mike!

    I feel that most companies undervalue what a mentor can bring to an individuals life and how it will positively affect their job performance. A colleague of mine and I were talking about this today actually!

    My Opinions...

    • The mentor does not need to be in a role that are you looking to move into or in the same department. If anything, it will help with cross departmental communication to have a mentor in another department.
    • A mentor does not need to be older than the age of the mentee.
    • The mentee should look for someone that helps you think about things a little differently.
    • In the "courting" process, it is important to communicate with your manager so the process is not misunderstood.
    • The mentee and mentor need to feel respect for eachother, but do not necessarily need to have commonality in their likes, dislikes, views, The commonality could just be that you are both open to helping others professional development.

    I think a mentee taking ownership all relates to self awareness and authenticity. Being self aware enough to know your limitations, areas that are non starters, and how you REACT to situations. You then need to be open and authentic with the person that you are looking to engage as it is important to also respect their time, and know what you are seeking from the relationship.

    Understanding your own behavioral drives also relate.

    For those that have a high extroversion drive- it may be easier for them to "get to know a few people" to see what ignites a "spark" which could be .. feeling of connection, comfort, respect- I don't think it is defined on that first meet.

    For those that have a lower extroversion drive- programs that set up coffee with random employees, or pair those in onboarding with someone that the company may feel has opposite skills sets and drives is valuable.

  • We do not have a mentor program but would like to create one.

  • Thanks @Veena Houston, do you feel like this conversation will help you get one started? If not, what other info would you like to see?

  • What an interesting topic!

    Like @Victoria I too have been both a mentor and a mentee while working at Fidelity. They used a mentorship program as part of their onboarding strategy. Everyone got a mentor to help them through the first 30 - 60 days, introduce them to people, show them the many different systems used by Fidelity and walk through typical day-to-day questions.

    What I loved about the program, was that it didn't require a mentor to be expert in a domain knowledge area. Instead you were the "expert" at working at Fidelity, because you had been there a while and knew the ropes.

    My onboarding mentor was a great example of how it should work. She had a 1:1 with me scheduled every week, and for each one she showed me something new that I didn't know about. For example there was an online list of acronyms - (which are RAMPANT at Fidelity - and by the way, all start with the letter F!) which enabled me to make sense out of acronym-filled conversations that sounded like gibberish to someone new.

    Later in my career, I became a mentor to a new hire. I was a training professional and she was a Finance professional so I wasn't able to mentor her about financial topics. But I was able to show here where to look online for things, help her get technical support when she had a computer glitch and help her with other conundrums that inevitably come up when someone is new.

    I've always loved that program. At a huge company like Fidelity you can feel very lost as a new hire, and having a "mentor/buddy" built in already was very comforting! We met for coffee once a week long after the official program stopped and a true friendship grew.

    Love reading everyone's take on mentor programs here on .org!

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