Archive for the ‘talent management’ Category

The Full Cost of a Mentoring Program

October 26, 2011
Kim Wise, CEO

Every prospective client is concerned with the cost of software for the administration of a formal mentoring program.

We are often struck by the short-sightedness of the cost question.  From our perspective, the real cost is the damage of a poor match.  A bad experience hurts the firm’s reputation, risks alienating mentor and harms the potential career of the mentee.

Mentoring programs succeed for many reasons, and these are as complex as human nature.  The ability for two people to learn from each other is based on multiple factors. A match with good chemistry has more going for it than skills, competencies and functional areas.

In a great match, the mentor and mentee have similar motivations around “work” and what it means in their lives. They have personalities that mesh well.

In a mis-match, they may learn a few things, but they are unlikely to develop a friendship and a longer term tie that is potentially life changing. This is the product manager, who didn’t get the mentor who would broaden his or her thinking and didn’t influence their creativity.  The result is less innovation for the company sponsoring the mentoring program – a loss that dwarfs the cost of the software.

In a mis-match, the organization’s money is wasted, as neither is able to use the experience to its fullest nor to maximize their personal potential.  This is the first real cost – the lost opportunity for learning.

The second real cost is reputational.  The mis-match often causes people to wonder why their organization gave them yet another meaningless task.  Morale declines. Learning is stifled.  Before long, the mentoring program has a bad reputation.  Potential mentors beg off, saying they “are too busy.” Past mentors drop out because the experience isn’t enjoyable.  In today’s hyper connected world, those negative experiences impact your potential employees.  They can also cost an
organization it’s best people, if the competition has a stronger employee value proposition.

Mentor Resources is the premier provider of tools for formal Mentoring Programs. The key to our program is WisdomShare®, the matching algorithm, which is based on Ms. Wise’ 20 years of experience managing mentoring programs and advising administrators of formal mentoring programs. In addition to job experience and work skills, the cloud-based 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.  Ninety-nine percent (99%) of the Mentees in programs which use WisdomShareTM for matching 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 existing corporate Intranet functionality.

So, what is the cost?  We offer a compelling value proposition relative to other mentoring software providers and our pricing is very competitive.  Call (415-380-0918) or email us (KWise “at” to discuss your needs and to recieve a proposal.



Human Capital and Risk Management

October 21, 2011

Although Human Capital accounts for of operating costs at most companies and can have a significant impact on business results, the management of Human Capital Risk tends not to be a focus of Enterprise Risk Management Professionals.

The risks range from unionization/labor relations to offshoring and outsourcing to staffing in a pandemic to turnover/retention and the loss of intellectual capital and experienced workers.  Drilling down in Managing Human Capital Risk: A Call for a Partnership between Enterprise Risk Management and Human Resources, a Conference Board survey done earlier this year, a “shortage of critical skills within your company’s workforce” was the specific risk most on the minds of Senior Executives.

Out of eleven risk categories, the executives ranked Human Capital Risk as having the fourth highest impact on business results, ahead of financial, reputational, supply chain, and IT risks.  Still, it was interesting to note that less than one-third (31 percent) of companies believe they effectively assess human capital risk, and 24 percent believe they do an ineffective job.

Peter Cappelli, Director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School, recently published an article Managing Human Capital Risk which discusses the potential for risk in human resources to negatively affect entire business organizations.

We would encourage all administrators of mentoring programs click through and read Professor Cappelli’s article and to adopt the language of risk management in talking to colleagues, both inside and outside the Human Resources Department.

Regarding these risks, Mentoring programs offer:

  • A tool for Increasing Tacit Knowledge. Tacit Knowledge is skills that can only be gained through experience, which is the primary purpose of most mentoring programs. This is the intellectual capital which keeps the company running smoothly, but is difficult or impossible to capture in patents and formal processes.  Thus, Mentoring is the most effective way to transfer and increase Tacit Knowledge.
  • A way to Reduce Costs for training by lowering turnover. Higher retention is a side effect of both higher job satisfaction and help with career advancement.
  • Expanding the Critical Skills within the Workforce, the Talent Development part of the mentoring program.

Of course, at Mentor Resources, we believe the effectiveness of the mentor-mentee match is highly correlated with the measurable results from the mentoring program. If you would like to see a white paper on this topic, send me an email at KWise “at” or call me at 415-380-0918.

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Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School. His latest book, with Bill Novelli, is Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order

If the topic of demographics in your workforce is of interest, Mark your calendar now for November 3rd at 11:00 AM  PST/2PM EST for “The Importance of Mentoring with Four Generations in the Workplace.”

Four generations, with different values and communication styles, have created interesting challenges in the workplace.  Don’t miss Mentor Resources’ informational webinar for managers on Thursday, November 3.  RSVP with Jennifer Aguilar  at jaguilar “at” or 415-380-0918.

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.

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.

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.

Is your ERG measurably effective?

October 13, 2010

This is a follow up to the blog posted earlier in the week on the evolution of Business Resource Groups (ERGs or BRGs).  They migrate along a recognizable path from an Informal Affinity Group, to a Formal (but still inward-looking) Affinity Group, to an Employee Resource Group (with clear support and resources from the corporation) to the highest level of contribution to the firm, the Resource Business Group.

Business Resource Groups (BRGs) differ from Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) because they have explicit goals which are tied directly to objectives of the business.  Thus, the BRG will have goals for recruiting and business development – which are monitored and regularly reported.

Two partners from Deloitte’s Atlanta office gave a presentation on metrics for evaluating the maturity and effectiveness of ERGs/BRGs.

The full text of this blog has moved to

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:

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

Mentoring within KPMG

September 23, 2010

If you follow mentoring, you won’t want to miss this three minute interview of  Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, KPMG’s National Managing Partner for Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility. 

 KPMG has always had a strong mentoring culture and requires Senior Leaders to mentor members of diverse populations.  About a year ago,  KPMG elevated Ms. Hannan from an managing partner in taxation to the newly created National Managing Partner for Diversity.   In this role, this Native American CPA lead’s the firm’s diversity strategy and initiatives, including fostering an environment of inclusion that embraces diversity among KPMG’s partners, employees, vendors and clients, as well as community involvement.

DiversityInc. posted the video.  Ms. Hannan’s enthusiasm comes through as she talks of the cross pollination that occurs when mentoring occurs across multiple Employee Resource Groups.

At Mentor Resources, our focus is how a great match between the mentor and the mentee results in more engagement in the formal program. 

Ms. Hannan hits the same notes while discussing how it is human nature to want to be associated with success and to help others.  KPMG’s mentoring programs tap into this to engage employees.

A structured mentoring program creates an opportunity for employees to consider other perspectives and to feel their viewpoint is valued.  That direct dialog translates into “I am valued” for the mentee.  The mentor usually gains just as much, as they too learn of other perspectives.