Time for Mentoring

When Your Mentors and Mentees Don't Have Time for Mentoring

No one can put more hours in the day, but we can give you a few tips and strategies to make the most of the hours you – and your mentors and mentees – do have.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Manage a Transitioning Workforce

For all of you who couldn’t get out to Orlando for ATD 2015 this month, here’s a recap of Judy Corner’s presentation.

You’re currently investing too much in employees to let that investment go every time an employee relocates, is promoted, or leaves the company entirely. So the question is, how can we handle talent shifting around?

When it comes to people leaving the organization entirely, that’s a conversation that corporate alumni programs are handling. But when it comes to the employees that are remaining in the organization, you’re facing three questions:

  • How are you going to get your people actively shifting up to speed and adjusted in their new environment?
  • How are you going to get the people in that new environment adjusted along with the person who shifted?
  • How are you going to deal with the situation the shifters leave behind – e.g., who will be filling their old shoes, and what preparation will they have for their new role or addition of responsibilities to their current role?

The Workforce in Transition

The workforce is in a period of drastic transition that isn’t going away anytime soon. This makes the subject of institutional knowledge transfer even more timely and necessary to discuss.

  • Baby Boomers – post World War II baby boom. 250,000 per month turning 65 every month. This will continue until 2035. 
  • Generation X – moving into leadership and upper management positions
  • Generation Y – Currently make up 225% of the workforce. By 2020, expected to make up 40% of the workforce. 
  • Generation Z – Make up 10% of the workforce, but coming up fast.

Bear in mind that all employees – not just Gen Y/Millennials segment – are staying with their organizations for shorter and shorter periods of time. Add to this the fact that employees are also taking career development opportunities when and where they become available – even if that’s outside of their current organization. Now that the economy is in a recovery, they can afford more and more to do so.

It’s not enough for just HR to understand the generational differences – but don’t get us wrong, it’s definitely very important for HR to understand and champion methods to overcome those differences. But those methods are by necessity going to have to be team efforts, meaning that all employees from all generations must be able to communicate with and learn from each other.

Mentoring Facilitates Employee Transition

In our recent Mentoring Benchmarking Survey, when asked to indicate the top two primary objectives of their mentoring programs, respondents indicated that “Institutional knowledge sharing or transfer” was the third most frequent objective, at 30.8% of respondents. Taking first and second place as top objectives, unsurprisingly, were “leadership or high potential development” and “skill development”. (Stay tuned for the release of the full survey report at the end of this quarter.)

So while growth and effectiveness take top priority – once again, not surprising in a recovering economy – preservation of institutional knowledge is still a top priority.

But the fact is that they can and should all be working together, and mentoring is an excellent vehicle to make that happen. Why?

  • It’s skills-focused and culture-specific.
  • It provides practical and just-in-time learning with specific goals.
  • It helps the learner (the mentee) avoid pitfalls, as the mentor has been there and done that already.

Learn more about how mentoring can help your organization through this time of transition, with mentoring program planning and mentoring training

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Women in Presidential Politics: Mentoring in Public Policy

Run a search in Google for “Hillary Clinton and mentoring” and you’ll find a lot of articles about the many mentors Clinton has had throughout her life. These range from her liberal Methodist minister, to her mother Dorothy Rodham, to her conservative high school history teacher, and beyond.

Of course, most of these articles are written for the purpose of linking Clinton to a particular influence or ideology for some underlying political reason.

Regardless, the fact that she’s had so many mentors speaks a lot to how she’s been able to become a major player in international politics (from influential First Lady, to two-time senator of New York, to Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term); but her dedication to the importance of mentoring is also pretty clearly demonstrated in her public policy.

Mentoring in Hillary Clinton's Public Policy

Like Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, Clinton’s most recent initiatives tend to focus on empowering women. Unsurprisingly, Clinton’s initiatives take a global viewpoint.

Her “No Ceilings Project” is the latest of such ventures, and is a global initiative to use big data to pinpoint progress towards specific women’s issues in countries around the world. Here are a few others:

  • TechWomen: Aims to help women in the Middle East and Africa to pursue technology based careers by providing mentors from the Silicon Valley and San Francisco in the US. 
  • Women in Public Service Project: A part of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, which mobilizes women through public service. Mentoring is a part of the initiative’s learning and leadership development goal – and one for which Insala’s own Judy Corner delivered a networking and mentoring workshop
  • Global Sports Mentoring Program: A collaboration between the State Department and espnW, this initiative seeks to identity women worldwide who are emerging leaders in sports and match them with American women who are leaders in this fields to nurture the next generation of women in sports. But like Fiorina's tendencies towards grassroots leadership, Clinton stresses that envoys will also be employed to talk and play with girls and women one-on-one. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Don’t Forget to Promote Your Mentoring Program

In a recent webinar, we asked attendees the following question and received the following results:

Those results are shockingly polar between “Yes” and “Not Sure.” Our poll questions about how mentoring programs are promoted in organizations generally return a fairly high percentage of people who indicate that they’re “Not Sure” one way or the other how they’re promoting their mentoring program. This indicates the greater overall trend that mentoring programs tend to be very underpromoted in their organizations, and supports our own anecdotal evidence that there tends to be a lot of miscommunication and misconceptions in mentoring programs that don’t have a communication and/or marketing plan set up from the get-go.

But because these results are so heavily weighted toward two extremes, we wanted to take the opportunity to comment on them.

Here’s our response, no matter where you fall in that spectrum.

Yes, we promote our mentoring program as an effective way to transfer knowledge. 

Good for you! You already understand a) the importance of positioning and marketing your mentoring program, and b) how important and attractive knowledge transfer is in the current workforce’s transitional climate.

No, we don’t promote our mentoring program as an effective way to transfer knowledge. 

Targeting knowledge transfer as an objective – even if it’s ancillary to other objectives such as leadership development, skill development, onboarding, etc. – means that not only mentors and mentees, but also your leadership, are more aware of and focused on how their role in the mentoring program can help a) insulate the organization from shocks that result when individuals leave, and b) grow and strengthen the organization even through those shocks.

I’m not sure whether we do or not.

Find out the following:

  • What are my mentoring program’s current objectives?
  • How do we talk about the mentoring program to leadership?
  • How do we talk about the mentoring program to mentors and mentees?
  • How do mentors, mentees, and leadership all view the mentoring program?
You may find that there are some significant gaps in either a) your communication to mentors, mentees, and/or your leadership, or b) how your mentors, mentees, and/or leaders think and talk about the mentoring program amongst themselves.

Mixed messages can be a death sentence for your mentoring program. If you're not sure of any of the above, find out now.

Still have more questions? Try reading our article Mentoring For Knowledge Transfer.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Women in Presidential Politics: Leading from the Bottom Up

Earlier this week, Carly Fiorina declared that she was running for president as a GOP candidate.

Despite the fact that she’s campaigning on the fact that she has little-to-no political experience (save her advising John McCain in 2008 and running against Barbara Boxer for senator of California in 2010), what she has done tells us a lot about her and her philosophy: (Source)

Her Initiatives

Fiorina has been at the helm of the One Woman Initiative since 2008, and the Unlocking Potential Project (also known as the UP Project) since 2011.

One Woman Initiative is focused on supporting grassroots organizations that empower women in predominately Muslim countries. Says Fiorina, “Investments in women can lift entire families out of poverty, transform communities, and foster peace and prosperity, we are particularly sensitive to the potential of women in Muslim majority countries, at this watershed moment, when family and community stability can contribute to the peace and security we all seek.” (Source)

UP Project is itself a grassroots campaign aimed at organizing, educating, and exciting conservative women in battleground states to turn out the vote. Says Fiorina, “All the data says that people are most persuaded by people they know. We are going to engage people in the communities where they live and work, train them where they are, and measure the results so we know what's working... And that's what works. And it particularly works with women. They are persuaded by other women they know.” (Source)

The key word here? “Grassroots.”

How She Sees Her Career Story

Fiorina speaks often about her rise to CEO of HP as having started with a mentor seeing that she was capable of being more than a secretary. Having taken a meandering path to get her even to that first job as secretary – that involved obtaining a degree in medieval studies from Stanford, teaching English in Italy, and going to and then leaving law school – she highlights that “The truth is that most Americans get their start this way: in little businesses put together by entrepreneurs.” (Source)

"You can learn from every interaction. You can learn from absolutely everybody," she has said. (Source)


Here are our three initial takeaways:

  1. Individual accountability is important to our individual lives as well as the greater picture around us. Each person is responsible for their own future, as well as the future they want to see in the world around them. You can't underestimate the power of individuals to make a change for themselves and their communities around them. Learning can happen anywhere, as long as we're open to it, and how we can apply it.
  2. Mentors matter. As necessary as it is to hold ourselves individually accountable, mentors who can not only recognize, but nurture, potential are equally if not more important.
  3. Telling our stories is important. They matter to the people whose story it is, to the people who need to hear that that story is possible in their own lives, and to the people who can help other people achieve it but need the right push to get out there and do it. 
Are you similarly inspired?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leadership and Mentorship: An Upward Trend

Leadership and Mentorship

In a poll taken at our most recent webinar “Mentoring for Knowledge Transfer in the Multigenerational Workplace”, our attendees indicated that mentorship for leadership development was overwhelmingly the main focus of their mentoring program.

Take a look at the full results below:

leadership and mentorship

Looking at Insala’s other benchmarking data, this is in line with an increase in organizational focus on leadership development. Just 11% of respondents to a survey in 2010 reported that leadership development was their main focus of their mentoring program, while 49.5% of respondents to our now-closed 2015 survey indicated that leadership development was one of their two top objectives. (Stay tuned for the release of the full survey report at the end of June.)

Since the economy is in a period of growth again, it makes sense that organizations are likewise focusing on organizational growth as a priority, and they’re doing it smartly by ensuring that they have a pool of leadership-ready individuals to fill and grow the succession pipeline.

Aligning Leadership and Mentorship

But whether you’re specifically in charge of a mentoring program or broadly in charge of learning initiatives at your organization, it’s important to remember that there are multiple moving parts to an organization’s leadership development trajectory; a mentoring program focused on leadership development, as this Fast Company article suggests, will have best results if it is aligned with other ongoing leadership development activities in your organization.

While you can and should look externally from your mentoring program to see how you might facilitate or coordinate this, you absolutely must look internal to your mentoring program and ensure that your mentors’ goals are aligned with your overall organizational goal of mentee leadership development.

Learn how mentor training can help your mentors get leadership-ready individuals in your pipeline.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The 4 Top Mentoring FAQ

We’ve found that people involved with running mentoring programs at their organization tend to have a lot of the same frequently asked questions about mentoring.

Take a look below:

Top Mentoring FAQ

How can I qualify mentors? 

Firstly, let them self-assess out as necessary, by letting all your potential mentors know upfront exactly what they’re signing up for. Even if recruiting mentors is a pain point for you, you only want the right mentors in your program. Second, ensure that the remaining mentor pool have the knowledge the mentees need, as well as the coaching, communication, and interpersonal skills required. (Learn more about mentor training.)

How can I measure mentoring

This depends on your program goals. What are your specific business objectives? If it’s improving a learning curve for a targeted group, you can identify savings in speed to productivity. If it’s to decrease your training budget, you can show the difference between old training budget and new mentoring budget in light of learning targets achieved through mentoring. If it’s succession planning, you can tie it to people moving up in the organization and their learning goals.

These are just a few examples. Rest assured, though, that if you have defined objectives, you can measure your mentoring program’s success. (Tip: mentoring software can make this easier to track and report on if you're feeling overwhelmed.)

How can I assess mentors and mentees? 

Look at mentors and mentees using both qualitative and quantitative measurements. For an example of quantitative mentoring measurements, did your mentors and mentees meet their objectives for the mentoring partnership? Or if your program cycles, are any particular mentors chosen as a mentor over and over again? For an example of qualitative mentoring measurements, look at feedback surveys. For example, how did the mentee’s manager, coworkers, and team members see that the mentee developed?

Again, if you have defined objectives, you can measure your mentors and mentees.

How can I get buy in from management or leadership to obtain or maintain funding? 

Make sure your mentoring program is not seen as an expendable program. The adage goes that you have to make yourself irreplaceable in order to have complete job security; and the same logic applies here. Mentoring is a business strategy, not a warm fuzzy feel good program. It’s there and formalized to solve specific and targeted business pains. Present your case in light of those pains and how you’re going to resolve them, and that’s your strategy to get buy in for your mentoring program.

Do you have a question that isn’t one of these? Let us know in the comments.

Learn about how you can measure your mentoring program with mentoring software.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Multiple Generations in Mentoring: Poll Results

As promised, here are the results of the poll that closed last Thursday.

Have you found it challenging to include multiple generations in your mentoring program?
  • Yes – 20%
  • No – 60%
  • We don’t include multiple generations in our mentoring program – 20%
  • I’m not sure; I’ve never considered it – 0%

While 80% of respondents indicated that their mentoring program wasn’t challenged by including multiple generations, it bears asking if those respondents are challenged overall by multiple generations in the workplace (regarding communication and working styles, for example), and if yes, if the lack of those issues in their mentoring program is at least in part due to mentoring’s collaborative methodology.

Regardless, there have been a lot of articles and news reports in recent months, and even years, stressing the differences between Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, and urging their audiences to understand other generations’ needs and wants as employees. This is a commendable goal. But how does this impact our perception of each other as employees – and therefore how we work with each other?

Let us know your thoughts.

Learn more about how mentoring can help bridge the generation gap in the workplace.