Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category

With Unemployment Above 9%

October 12, 2011

With unemployment at current levels, why would any manager focus on mentoring?  Why spend money on current employees when they should be happy to have their job?

As an observer of the American business environment, I find myself startled at the short-sightedness of managers who make comments like these.  And yet, I have heard these comments and been stunned to see them written in blogs.

Near as I can figure, the questions must derive from the commenter’s own fear of losing their job.  They are extremely short-sited and not to the benefit of any company that expects to remain in business for more than a few more quarters.

It is well documented that an outstanding manager (or employee) will contribute significantly more than an average employee in the same position to the firm’s bottom line.  Thus, it should be obvious that leveraging your best employees impacts the bottom line in a meaningful way. Today, every manager needs every one of his or her employees to be a better than average employee.  Rather than taking employees for granted (“since there are no jobs out there”), managers should be focused on increasing engagement, efficiency and proficiency at the job.

The impact can be meaningful: BestBuy, for example, has recently shared with observers that a 0.1% increase in average employee satisfaction within a store increases revenues, at that store, by $100,000 per year.

Mentoring is the fastest way to share the perspective and tacit knowledge of the outstanding employees.  Tacit knowledge is the counterpart to classroom learning.  It’s the subtle lessons of experience and observation over time.

When an employee who has been successful in the organization agrees to mentor a less experienced employee and they click – creating a good mentoring experience – the perspective of the successful employee is leveraged and magnified.

Mentor Resources provides software for the administration of formal mentoring programs.  WisdomShare™ is a proprietary algorithm which matches Mentors and Mentees to create a good match, where the pair share personality traits.  Tell us about your company’s mentoring program.  Let us share thoughts on how it might be improved.

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Why Does a Better Match Matter?

October 1, 2011

Mentor Resources a leading provider of software for the administration of formal mentoring programs. Many Human Resources professionals refer to the largest provider of this type of software as Match.com for the workplace.  Using that analogy, WisdomShare™ is the eHarmony of the workplace as our match is based on skills, education, job level AND over a dozen personality characteristics.

Based-on the ideas of strength-based learning, WisdomShare™ was developed with the premise that if your Mentor is successful with a personality similar to your own, you will be more motivated to adopt the Mentor’s approach and insights into the workplace. That is, if your Mentor is like you in predominantly thinking in numbers, or also irritates people with their fast, sometimes brusque, speaking style, you can learn how those personality traits have been turned to assets in your organization.

What we find is that people click and like one another.  Mentoring software matches can produce a blind date, although that has not been the experience described by participants in our client’s programs. Many of the pairs matched by WisdomShare™ remain in-touch and describe themselves as friends beyond the duration of the mentoring program.

But does it matter? Companies exist to create products and services and generate a profit – not to create warm-feelings and friendships among co-workers.  Human Resource professionals want to see higher retention (lower hiring and training costs), higher engagement (resulting in greater workplace productivity) and faster transfer of skills among employees. Intuitively, that click should produce better results from the mentoring program.

The book Connected : The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler gave us a new perspective on the question. Everyone seems to be talking about how we, as individuals, connect to others and how newer technologies are changing our networks.

Christakis and Fowler have written a book that is clear and interesting.  The authors explore network contagion in back pain, suicide, politics and emotions.  (We’ve all experienced offices where morale is low and felt it spread from person to person. Neuroscientist can demonstrate the limbic system in our brains mirrors the emotional state of our coworkers.)

It is possible take these ideas of Christakis and Fowler and map social networks within large firms.  Terrance Albrecht, a researcher in the area of communication in large organizations, did this research and found that there are two networks within most companies.  A job-task related communciation network and social-only communication network. (This makes sense, a second network of people with similar outside interests or shared experience who may have met through a BRG/ERG.)

The mentoring match matters because (connecting the ideas of Christakis, Fowler and Albrecht), innovation and sharing new ideas in the workplace appears to only occur when and where the work network overlaps with the social network.  Albrecht found that only 13% of communication included innovative ideas, but the social network appeared to be essential for employees to develop the trust necessary to share new ideas.

We’ll write more on this in future blogs.  In the meantime, please call us to discuss your firm’s mentoring program and how a great match can reduce costs through improved employee retention, or increase profitability through increased employee engagement.

Who is Mentor Resources?

September 1, 2011

Mentor Resources is the second largest provider of software for the administration of formal mentoring programs for large enterprises, including Fortune 500 companies, professional associations, governmental organizations, universities and other non-profits.

WisdomShare ®, our web-based application matches Mentors and Mentees, provides how to tools and training and follows up with the participants. What makes WisdomShare ® unique is our proprietary matching algorithm which uses job experience, work skills and over a dozen personality characteristics to reate a match.

Kim Wise, the founder of Mentor Resources, has been matching Mentors and Mentees for nearly 20 years. Over time, it became obvious that a Great Match creates better results from a Mentoring Program. Mentor Resources was founded on the idea that a Great Match could be found using software. Today, Mentor Resources is the premier provider of tools for formal mentoring Programs.

WisdomShare ®, our matching algorithm, is based on Ms. Wise’ experience. In addition to job experience and work skills, the software evaluates over a dozen personality characteristics to find a Great Match.

The goal of all Mentoring Programs is to speed up the process of Sharing What Works. We believe that the Mentee will accept advice and adopt strategies from a Mentor more quickly if they have similar strengths and communication styles.  Studies by our clients have shown that more than 95% of all Mentees in programs which use WisdomShare ®  report being well matched with the Mentor.

The web-based software has been designed for ease of use by the Human Resource Department or the Program Administrator. The software integrates seamlessly with an existing Intranet.

A Great Match creates better results from a Mentoring Program – measurable in higher retention, higher employee engagement, lower cost, faster promotions or whatever the goals of your organization’s mentoring program. WisdomShare®  is one-of-a-kind in delivering great matches.

Sharing What Works is our goal and motto.

Our software is based upon a strengths-based learning model.  Our cloud-based software improves knowledge sharing, helps corporations reach diversity goals and strengthen business resource groups (ERG/BRG) and enhances existing talent development programs.

Talk to us about your mentoring program needs at +1-415-380-0918 or Info “at” MentorResources.com

Who is Mentor Resources?

December 22, 2010

Mentor Resources is the second largest provider of mentoring software to Fortune 500 companies, non-profits and universities.  WisdomShare, our web-based application matches Mentors and Mentees, provides how to tools and training and follows up with the participants.  What makes  WisdomShareTM unique is our proprietary matching algorithm which uses job experience, work skills and over a dozen personality characteristics to create a match. 

 A Great Match creates better results from a Mentoring Program – measurable in higher retention, higher employee engagement, lower cost, faster promotions or whatever the goals of your organization’s mentoring program, WisdomShare is one-of-a-kind in delivering matches that work. 

Sharing What Works is our goal and motto.  Based upon a strengths-based learning model, we have built software which improves knowledge sharing, helps corporations reach diversity goals and enhances leadership development programs.

When Education and Training Aren’t Enough: IT Business Analysts

November 8, 2010

One area where Mentoring is critical to the development of Talent is the crossover between Technology Project Management and Business Analysts – employees who can keep the IT project on track to solve the business problem. This combination of skills goes by different job titles in different firms: Business Analyst, Business System Analyst, Business System Planner and Business Solutions Architect are among the most common.  Regardless of the title, this is an experienced manager, who is able to keep the IT project on track as a solution to a business problem.

The person may come out of the Operations or IT.  Their role is to bridge the chasm and facilitate communication between the two sides. As with any other leadership role, competency comes from acquiring the technical skills (education and training) and experience, which is facilitated by mentoring from someone more experienced.

At minimum, Business Analysts need education in Project Management, Business Administration, plus Computing and Management Information Systems. 

These managers are challenged by: 

1)     A temptation to overanalyze.  Seeking feedback from both sides is essential, but can lead to analysis paralysis.

2)     Business Analyst move into a generalist role with both the business and technical arenas.  One risk is the loss of credibility if the Analyst doesn’t stay current with technology and business trends

3)     Business Analysts can sometimes dominate the conversation.  Often, this causes them to become a barrier rather than a facilitator of the conversation.

But probably the biggest challenge is the lack of skill.  IT departments tend to assign employees with strong technology skills the role of Business Analyst.  They often lack the management skills and business skills.  They get caught up in the projects specifications, and lose track of the larger business problem which the specifications attempted to address.

We just read a very interesting article on Business Analysts – and almost every page of the white paper made reference to the challenge of developing this talent and the role of mentoring.  Please click here to go to Business Analyst: The Pivotal IT Role of The Future by Kathleen B Hass, PMP for Management Concepts 

Management Concepts offers a number of training offerings for the development of Business Analysts. But even with offerings focused on “leadership and facilitation skills, rich in lean-thinking, agile tool sets … and a real world IT situations including outsourcing challenges” their printed material continues to discuss the importance of mentoring for both the individual’s career and as a tool for managers advancing the organization’s IT Business Analyst capability.

Mentor Resources is the second largest provider of tools for formal mentoring programs.  WisdomShare™ has been designed to find a great match between the mentor and the mentee, so that they are both engaged and thus, a faster transfer of knowledge and experience.

Seven Types of Mentoring

November 5, 2010

The word Mentor goes back to Greek mythology.  Mentor was the son of Alcumus. In his old age, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus’ foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.  Because of Mentor’s and Eumaeus’ near-paternal relationship with Telemachus, the personal name Mentor came to be used in the 18th century as a term meaning a father-like teacher.

The modern use of the word, mentor, is derived from this.  A mentor is a trusted friend or a counselor with more experience who shares insights. Mentors provide expertise to less experienced individuals, known as a mentees (or protégés), to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks.

By definition, mentoring involves communication and is relationship based. In the organizational setting, mentoring can take many forms.  But generally, mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development. Mentoring entails informal communication, over a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the Mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the Mentee). (From Wikipedia)

In the modern workplace, there are seven types of formal mentoring programs. Mentor Resources has tools for all of these.

  1. New Hires – This is sometimes referred to as on-boarding.  A new employee is assigned a Mentor who is a peer.  The Mentor is there to explain the unwritten rules of the workplace and to shorten the learning curve of the new employee.
  2. Skill Transfer – This is frequently used by corporations with a commitment to cross training or trying to build “hives” of expertise.
  3. Employee Resource Groups – Employee Affinity Groups often have desire for a formal mentoring program to enhance their employee’s career advancement.  Often these diversity groups want their members to be able to connect and share information about how to succeed in the organization and handling stressful situations.
  4. Career Development – The mentoring programs are generally set up by Human Resources under the name Talent Management.  Their goal is to make sure High Potential employees and “Emerging” High Potential employees acquire the right set of experiences and visibility to move up the organization.
  5. Reverse Mentoring – Is one of the newer areas of mentoring.  One of the side effects of a well matched Mentor-Mentee pair, is a broadening of perspective on both sides.  This has become an important part of the development of Senior Managers.
  6. Communities of Practice – Similar to Skill Transfer Mentoring, but longer-term programs for participants in Tech Clubs and other matrix management type organizational structures.  These mentoring programs are geared towards encouraging the development of advanced professional skills.
  7. Succession Planning – Mentoring for the transition into the “C-suite” is, but definition, done with very small numbers of hand-selected people.  This is the only type of Mentoring where WisdomShareTM and Mentor Resources’ software tools are inapplicable.

Each of these types of Mentoring Programs improves employee retention and engagement, if there is a good match and the Mentor-Mentee “click”.   WisdomShareTM, our matching algorithm is based upon skills, job experience and personality traits.

Preparation for a Community of Practice

November 3, 2010

Formal Mentor Programs almost always have to goal of managing and transferring knowledge.  Well-run companies recognize that knowledge (or intellectual capital) is the source of their value creation, and that these assets need to be shared and expanded within the firm.

In this context, we have been thinking about the classic, Cultivating Communities of Practice, by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder. Communities of Practice come together around their shared interest and expertise.  If the community is thriving, it increases the intellectual capital of the individuals and the organization. The book focuses on “aliveness,” a key characteristic of successful Communities of Practice, and how to encourage its development.  Aliveness is driven by the personal interactions of the participants. 

It can be challenging to get a  Community of Practice started, as a “community” is a human institution that, by definition, is spontaneous, self-directed and usually evolves naturally. Communities, unlike project teams or matrix reporting structures, need to invite the interaction – as this creates “aliveness”. 

According to the authors, creating a Community of Practice in your organization means thinking along the lines of life-long learning, rather than traditional organizational design.  The first step is to draw in potential members and to have them extend the community to their personal and professional network.  

Creating the right environment to encourage the development of a Community of Practice, involves first building a robust culture of sharing knowledge across multiple locations and departments.  This would describe most of the firms who believe they have strong mentoring cultures. 

If your organization is thinking about how to create or improve its mentoring culture, we would like to talk to you. Mentor Resources is the second largest provider of software tools for formal Mentoring Programs.

IBM’s War for Talent

October 17, 2010

I know several women who tell the same story. 

They graduated from a top-tier college in the early 1960’s.  Near their graduation date, they were offered an opportunity to sit for an IQ test and, based upon the results, they were immediately hired by a large insurance company to be trained as a computer programmer. (This was in the era when a “computer bug” was a moth that flew into the vacuum tubes and shut down the computer.)

To us, in 2010, The War for Talent is a term McKinsey coined and promoted in the late 1990’s and is also the title of a book by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod.  Published by Harvard Business School Press in 2001, the book has become a classic.  The authors argued that coming demographic shifts would make it harder to replace leaders in the future.  For business to succeed, they would need to

  1.  expand their understanding of the pool of potential leaders to include women and minorities, and
  2. actively develop the leadership skills of their existing and future employees.

But the War for Talent (in computer programming) was so fierce, in 1964, that my friends, with no experience with computers, were offered jobs that included training in programming.

 Which brings me full circle, to this video (click here), shown by IBM when the company won the Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award.  The video is short and well worth your time.  A number of employees read Policy Letter #4, a half page memo signed by then IBM President, Thomas J. Watson Jr., in 1953.  The same employees then tell their name/origin and their years of employment with IBM.

So what was happening at IBM in 1953, that prompted the President of IBM write a memo which was radical for the times? Click here to read the full text, but in part it reads, “It is the policy of this organization to hire people who have the personality, talent and background necessary to fill a given job, regardless of race, color or creed.” 

What was happening in 1953?  IBM was experiencing talent acquisition challenges.  Ten years later, these same challenges to finding qualified programers would prompt large computer users (like insurance companies) to hire “people off the streets” in hopes that they could be trained in the role.  (IQ alone turned out to be a poor way to hire future computer programers. None of these friends lasted more than a month in their training program.) 

IBM has been fighting to get and keep the best people for over fifty-five years.  No wonder the company is a leader in diversity, in mentoring, in talent management and in sponsorship.  (See our September 22, 2010 blog.)

The original war for talent study was done in 1997.  The follow up study by McKinsey (War for Talent, Part Two), presented evidence that  “companies doing the best job of managing their talent deliver far better results for shareholders. Companies scoring in the top quintile of talent-management practices outperform their industry’s mean return to shareholders by a remarkable 22 percentage points.”

Mentor Resources is the premier provider of provides tools for mentoring to improve employee retention and engagement.  Because a Great Match results in a Better Mentoring Experience. 

Ask us how we can help your talent-management program.

From Affinity Group to Business Resource Group

October 9, 2010

Thank you for visiting the Mentor Guru Blog. We have moved and this blog is now posted at:

http://www.mentorresources.com/blog/bid/111584/From-Affinity-Group-to-Employee-Resource-Group-ERG

Our goal is to share two decade of experience managing corporate mentor programs.

Good Boss: How to Be the Best

October 2, 2010

At Mentor Resources we believe in Strength-Based Learning.  We have built an entire company around the idea that a Great Match creates better results from a Mentoring Program.

But we recognize that most mentoring programs are part of a company’s leadership development or talent management program. So we read many of the newly published books on leadership and management development.

One that is worthy of you time is: Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best … and Learn from the Worst.

Written by Robert Sutton, Professor of Management and Engineering at Stanford University, the book blends the latest management and psychological research with stories derived from reaction to his prior book, The No Asshole Rule (a NY Times bestseller).

By contrasting examples of the best and worst bosses, Sutton builds a case for staying in attuned to how the people who work directly for you react to what you say and do.  The best bosses are self-aware and know that their success depends on accurately interpreting their impact on others, and having the self-control to make adjustments that spark effort, dignity, and drive among their people.

Most supervisors suffer from overestimating their intellectual and social skills, but the best bosses are keenly aware of their flaws and work to overcome them.  They constantly seek to change and improve the situation, sometimes calling in others to help. The best bosses devote significant effort to understanding how their moods and actions impact their followers’ performance.

A Summary of Useful Tricks for Taking Charge

Since the single most important thing bosses to is convince others that they are in charge, we will share with you Sutton’s seven steps for enhancing the perception of leadership:

1. Talk more than others, but not the whole time.

2. Interrupt occasionally—and don’t let others interrupt you too much.

3. Cross your arms when you talk.

4. Use positive self-talk

5. Try a flash of anger occasionally.

6. If you aren’t sure whether to sit or to stand, stand. Place yourself at the head of the table.

7. Surrender some power or status, but make sure everyone knows that you did so freely.

We are very interested in talking to organizations about their leadership development programs and the role of a formal mentoring program.