Posts Tagged ‘tacit knowledge’

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.