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Mentoring Connections Newsletter
August 1998

In this issue

Getting Mentoring On The Rails
In 1997 David Hill returned to CityRail as CEO. During his term there in 1982, he had set a policy to recruit more women, however, on his return, he discovered that the 2% female employment ratio in operational areas had not changed. "Action constipation!" was his verdict.

The opportunity to improve the ratio of female employees was very timely at the beginning of this year at CityRail. They need to recruit 400-600 additional staff for the 2000 Olympics.

The aim was to ensure that 50% of all new guards would be women who would then be set on a career path which, in CityRail Train Crewing, normally passes from guard to train driver, where high salaries are possible.

Andrew de Wynter, General Manager HR at CityRail, spoke at the Making Mentoring Connections meeting in March, describing how the organisation has used mentoring as one of its key strategies to integrate the influx of new female employees into this traditionally male-dominated workplace. He commented that, "If mentoring can work here, it will work anywhere!" CityRail was very aware that although, historically, women may have been recruited, they only lasted a short time.

What was needed was a network of support which would enable women to "learn the ropes" quickly, and also to feel a sense of inclusion and acceptance within the organisation.

The primary aim of CityRail's Pilot Mentoring Program in Train Crewing was to retain their female recruits, and to give them the best possible chance of succeeding within the environment.

Management also wanted to assist male recruits to settle in quickly and productively and included them in the pilot.

The establishment of the program started with a focus group of opinion leaders to identify key issues.

By the end of this process, every one in the group including the cynics! had volunteered to be mentors.

The next step was the publication of a booklet introducing the concept of the mentoring program to all CityRail employees.

Andrew commented that this was probably the first time Train Crewing, traditionally a conservative area, had been highlighted as policy innovators.

Volunteer mentors came from the ranks of supervisors, guards, drivers and union officials. Almost all the women who had survived the system "pre-mentoring" also became mentors.

There is a waiting list of 70 more staff wanting to be mentors. Mentorees selected their mentors based on bio-data information, and the opportunity to meet and inter-act with them at mentoring workshops.

What are the results, three months into the program? In general, Andrew reported it seems to work brilliantly! Pleasingly for the mentorees, he stated, there have been no losses of male or female recruits, and their development time has been short circuited. Mentors have gotten a new lease on life.

There has been a visible growth of pride in mentor's role; plaques have been erected at all twelve depots and central office identifying mentors; and they are living up to their mentoring responsibilities well.

Andrew observed that mentors have begun to manage with improved people skills.

Some problems have been encountered. Separation, location and shift rostering present their own challenges, and attitudes about meeting mentoring partners outside normal working hours need to be worked through.

Overall, however, Andrew de Wynter expects that mentoring will grow to become a significant feature of the CityRail environment. They plan to begin "back to front" training, where mentors and trainee guards are trained separately then come together on the second day with the benefit of more understanding of their roles.

Recent mentorees will speak to new intake employees about the benefits of mentoring. And the real value of mentoring in developing mentors' people skills continues to create unexpected highs in morale and attitude, not just in relation to mentoring activities, but throughout Train Crewing operations.

Footnote: The new CEO, Simon Lane, continues strong top management support and final analysis of the two pilots showed extraordinary success in meeting all the set objectives. The third program starts in August incorporating the keen input from the first two groups.

Banking On Mentoring
At the July meeting of the Making Mentoring Connections Network, a case study of the pilot mentoring program in the Westpac Banking Corporation was presented by Niki Kesoglou, Human Resource Manager of Westpac's Policy, Projects & Diversity Department.

Westpac's mentoring was born out of a need, expressed at focus groups of managers and executive managers, to examine career progression and to retain high potential people resources (particularly for female staff) within the company.

There was an overwhelming response to circulation of a mentoring booklet and invitation, both from people wanting to be mentors and also from hopeful mentorees. The limited, trial nature of the pilot meant that some people had to be turned away, but they were given assurances they would be considered for involvement in such a program when it goes company-wide. The pilot included 18 mentors (12 males, 6 females) and 14 mentorees (6 males, 8 females).

Bio-data sheets were issued and participants took part in mentoring skills workshops. These workshops were augmented, two weeks later, by a "get acquainted" breakfast.

Westpac's program was feedback-intensive. The breakfast, and also a mid-point follow-up workshop with both mentors and mentorees, provided opportunities for checking reactions and progress.

On-going verbal and written guidance was offered by the project manager and coordinator. Every effort was made to stay in telephone contact with all participants, and their comments and input acted upon. Three sets of evaluation questionnaires (at six weeks, mid-point and project conclusion) were also used.

Westpac encountered some unwillingness on the part of some mentors to attend training. Their attitude seemed to be, "I already have communication skills - that's why I'm a mentor."

Many satisfying outcomes of the pilot program have been observed. Although the Westpac culture generally exhibits little gender bias, it was agreed that the program helped improve the visibility of women in this particular workplace.

Initial career progression indications are positive with a rise noted in the number of internal job applications by participants, and this will need to be tracked over time.

Mentoring relationships which cross functional areas have assisted in breaking down barriers.

One hundred percent of participants rated the program as useful or very useful. Mentorees reported an increase in job skills and career satisfaction, and improvements in organisational understanding, networking and confidence to pursue opportunities.

Mentors reported improving their own listening and communication skills, as well as additional networking opportunities; and that they observed increased mentoree happiness, confidence, and self awareness.

What was learned from Westpac's pilot mentoring program ? Niki listed a number of important lessons.

Management support, she said, is essential to the success of the program. On site training is felt to have been a poor choice as people were continually called away.

A longer, two day program is necessary for the proper learning and "getting acquainted" activities to take place. Company-specific interpretation of terminology needs to be taken into account in the program design.

Niki also reported that long distance mentoring was indeed possible, once the initial relationship was established through face to face meeting.

Westpac's plans for the future of mentoring include extending it to different areas of the business that are keen to pick up the program.

Trainers within the organisation will be developed to facilitate the mentoring workshops in-house, using materials especially designed by TGC.

Niki concluded her case study by summarising the keys Westpac has identified for a successful mentoring program - and these could well serve a sign posts for almost any organisation !

More details were included in the handouts Niki shared with the meeting participants.

Westpac Success Keys
  • Set clear objectives and measures to manage expectations.
  • Ensure management buy-in and support. Get the initial content of the training workshops "right" upfront.
  • Appoint dedicated resources to manage the program.
  • Have the workshops run off-site with a good facilitator.
  • Be clear with groups on the time needed to ensure a successful mentoring relationship.
  • Continually support participants (with verbal and written material sent out).
  • Ensure continual communication - feeding back results.

Mentoring that Makes a Difference
Video Review

There are two 43-minute videos in Linda Phillips-Jones' new resource package, Mentoring that Makes a Difference. One video is aimed at mentors, the other at mentorees (or, as Linda calls them, "mentees").

Each features a "fireside chat" in Linda's friendly, personable style, with footage of mentoring situations cut in to illustrate specific principles or activities, and pause points for discussion and/or to complete exercises.

The videos focus on the skills necessary to make a mentoring relationship work. Linda presents these as four shared core skills, which both mentors and mentorees need, and five each of mentor- and mentoree-specific skills.

Each video is divided into two parts, with Part I (28 minutes) being identical in both. It deals with the four-shared core skills of listening actively, identifying goals and current reality, building trust and encouraging.

In a logical and interesting way, Linda takes the viewer through how these skills impact on a mentoring relationship, and suggests a number of tips and experience-based ideas for implementing them. It is interesting that Linda insists that both partners in the mentoring relationship encouraged by the other.

Part II in the mentors' video discusses the additional skills this partner requires: inspiring, providing corrective feedback, managing risks, opening doors and instructing/developing capabilities.

The mentoree-specific skills covered in the second video's Part II are acquiring mentors, learning quickly, showing initiative, following through and managing the relationship.

While distinctly American in style, these videos avoid the trap of appearing too overtly identified with that culture. Also, the "talking head" syndrome is softened by good photography, Linda's pleasant personality and the use of workplace scenarios.

The videos would be effective in both training room situations, and also as self-paced learning resources.

These two videos are only part of the Mentoring that Makes a Difference package. You will also find three workbooks (Strategies for Getting the Mentoring You Need, Mentor's Guide and Mentee's Guide) and many ideas for role plays and other exercises. An excellent all-round mentoring resource and great value for $495.

Book Review

Mentoring In Action
A Practical Guide for Managers by David Megginson and David Clutterbuck
reviewed by Paul Stevens

Some readers will know of David Clutterbuck's book, "Everyone Needs a Mentor - How to Foster Talent within the Organisation". In "Mentoring in Action", he collaborates with David Megginson to provide the latest thinking and evidence for this essential building block of modern management development.

The book covers the creation and management of mentoring programs and the development of individual mentoring relationships - almost two books in one! It shows mentoring as a valuable element of the learning organisation, empowerment initiatives, management competencies, personal development plans and career management.

The emphasis is, of course, on encouraging individuals to gain insights into themselves, rather than on the mentor taking over for them. Many case studies illustrate the mutuality of this process.


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