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Articles     by The The Growth Connection
© Copyright The Growth Connection Pty. Ltd. 1999-2012


Banking on Mentoring
by Sandra O'Neill

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 as 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 materials sent out).
  • Ensure continual communication - feeding back results.

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