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State Rail Train Crewing Pilot Mentoring Program

A Live Mentoring Case Study - State Rail Authority of N.S.W. (Australia)

 

Pilot Mission Achieved

The overall aim for the pilot set out in the mission statement was:

    "State Rail Train Crew Pilot Mentoring Program will provide a supportive development process to help new Train Crew learn about their work, acquire critical skills and knowledge and adapt quickly into an enjoyable and successful rail career."

The acquisition of critical skills and knowledge within a supportive development process to ensure a successful rail career was demonstrated at final evaluation point and strongly endorsed through the mentor and mentoree evaluations and the results summarised below.

Pilot Program Objectives Met
This pilot program achieved all the stated objectives with many positive expected and some unexpected outcomes. Throughout the evaluations of both the mentors and mentorees there emerged an agreement that this program provided a network of support, a channel of communication, an opportunity to reflect and ask for guidance as well as building a camaraderie among mentors and mentorees as a group. It appears that in a relatively short amount of time (4-6 months) the mentoring experience had a significant impact on mentorees confidence, optimism and skills.

"To create a supportive network which ultimately leads to more effective teamwork and greater unity."
All the mentorees (100%) in Group 2, and all but two people in Group 1, indicated they achieved a supportive network amongst themselves and their mentors and with other Train Crew. They claimed they were introduced to people they would otherwise never have met. All mentorees claimed they could now approach someone if they needed help.

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75% of mentors from Group 1 and 73% from Group 2 stated that the program had extended their network with new contracts.

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Other typical mentor comments included:

  • "Previously I would sit back and wait for someone to ask for assistance - now I go out of my way to offer assistance."
  • "Mentoring Program is achieving its goal, all new employees are being offered assistance by many people."
  • "More team work and less animosity."
  • "We are all in it together (is a benefit)."
  • "Better work relations and procedures."

Representative mentoree comments were:

  • "My mentor is one of my best friends... someone I can approach if I need help."
  • "Both have good foundation of each other's job... we made a complete TRAIN CREW. I find it very important to know what goes on from the driver's position and vice versa."

"To provide avenues for more positive feedback and encouragement to new and existing staff members."
The majority of mentorees in both groups indicated that the mentoring program provided them with the mechanism to obtain positive feedback and encouragement.

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Typical mentoree comments in the evaluation were:

  • "All mentors have been encouraging."
  • "All people involved in the mentoring program were really helpful and this program gave us encouragement at the time we needed it."
  • "Encouragement to do my job properly."
  • "Encouragement from my mentor and other mentors."
  • "Mentor has become best friend and provides encouragement."
  • "My mentor encourages me to pursue my own goals."

"To provide new guards with the opportunity for personal support, targeted skill development and career enhancement."
The evaluation indicated there was personal support and skills development for the majority of mentorees. Typical comments were:

  • "Mentoring program gave me support and a new friend."
  • "The mentor was there to explain some of the difficult questions I had but I was responsible for my own actions."
  • "We originally knew that meetings would be irregular, but they have been invaluable in getting information and resolving difficulties without approaching union reps or senior officers."
  • "Good to have an official mentor... it creates a special bond between two people."
  • "Provided encouragement to promote myself and gained a new friend."
  • "Mentor has taught me a wide range of skills and knowledge that I had not been taught in the school."
  • "Information not available at Guard School or forgotten can be gained from mentor."

Mentors said of the mentorees:

  • "more skill and confidence"
  • "skilled and keen to do things the right way"
  • "knowledge of Train Crewing"
  • "work performance is good"
  • "confidence in skills and ability has transferred to work"

46% of mentorees in Group 1 and 64% in Group 2 indicated that the mentoring relationship assisted them with their careers. Another 46% of mentorees in Group 1 indicated that it was too early to tell but they felt it would emerge in the future. "It will provide me with career development in the future" was one comment from this group.

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Other mentorees from both groups commented:

  • "Provided confidence to further my career within Train Crewing."
  • "I now have confidence to further my career."
  • "Knowledge about the driver's side and also other career path options."
  • "Mentor's encouragement to become a driver."
  • "Career path has been explained."

69% of mentorees from Group 1 and 73.6% in Group 2 reported that they were pursuing specific development opportunities as a result of the mentoring program.

"To provide the opportunity for Train Crewing to pioneer an innovative and successful program and test it out for the rest of State Rail."
The evaluations indicated that 100% of Group 1 mentorees and 73% of Group 2 gave a positive response about benefits to Train Crewing from the mentor program. They saw the pilots as successful and the majority would like to see mentoring extended. Here are some of the ways they believe Train Crewing benefited from having a mentor program:

Mentorees Group 1

  • "New recruits settle in quicker."
  • "Building mateship."
  • "New Guards learn quickly through sharing experience."
  • "It widens new Guards' support network."
  • "Mentoring program gave me support and a new friend."
  • "It will benefit all in the long run."
  • "Stops new Guards "pulling the plug" and leaving."

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Mentorees Group 2

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Responses were similar to the above comments, and:

  • "It brings into the system Guards that can promote better work relations."
  • "New staff are settling in better and staff that are mentors are getting satisfaction and feeling needed."

From mentors, 100% of Group 1 and 82% of Group 2 offered positive responses about benefits, including:

chart8

  • "There is always someone you can trust."
  • "More questions can be asked and therefore less mistakes."
  • "It is a structured program for solving problems."

And Group 2:

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  • "Better work relations and procedures."
  • "It will relieve stress (less absenteeism)."
  • "Mentoree will grow as a crew member."

In addition, all but one (who had a workload problem) of the mentors wanted to be a mentor in the future, 100% of Group 1 mentorees wished to be mentors and in Group 2 64% wished to be future mentors while 36% probably would be. No mentoree said "No". This was a significant indication of the perceived value of the program and of its continued support from the people who benefited from the pilot program.

100% of the Group 1 mentors and 64% of Group 2 mentors (36% were undecided) believe the benefits gained from the mentoring program were worth the time spent.

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Again, no-one said "No" and it was clear that both groups of pilot participants saw the mentoring program as being a worthwhile and a successful "test run".

"To create a more equitable environment which attracts, retains and develops a diverse workforce."
Female Trainee Guards gave feedback that they were welcomed into Train Crewing and did not experience serious sexism or harassment. None resigned as at September 1998 - nine months after the first Pilot Program commenced. There was no racism reported racism to that date.

These issues were brought up in the initial mentoring workshops and openly discussed, with strategies provided for handling any difficulties should they arise. The widely reported increased confidence in all Trainee Guards in the mentoring pilots contributed to their acceptance into the wider Train Crewing environment.

Some comments by mentors include:

  • "Far better because there are more females on the job."
  • "They are accepted much quicker than those without a mentoring program."

The intention was to continue to monitor progress of female Trainee Guards in particular. As a number had already identified their next career move, it was likely that the career development outcomes indicated in the pilot evaluations would become evident over the next 6-12 months. Additional informal feedback was that they were enjoying the work, "love it!", as well as performing well.

"To be able to eliminate the barriers and divisions with Train Crewing through honest and open communication."
Both mentors and mentorees enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to have open discussions with a trusted person and to share information and knowledge. The mix of drivers and guards among the volunteer mentors contributed significantly to the reduction of this historical barrier. By October 1998 these numbers doubled as the 4th mentor program commenced, increasing the cross-communication between job levels and depots.

Typical comments from the mentors included:

  • "Program is good for new and old employees."
  • "Found this program fulfilling and opened a whole new horizon for me."
  • "It is very important for Train Crewing to be able to communicate. This program enhances this."
  • "You learn about people's feelings."
  • "There is always someone you can trust."

Some mentors felt that a good mentor in the TCAC area would become a mentor of many people.

Supporting comments from mentorees were:

  • "We have developed a relationship whereby I can speak to my mentor at any time about any problem."
  • "Communication with older guards a benefit."
  • "Met many senior guards."
  • "Introduced me to many people who have been very helpful."
  • "Understand driver's perspective."
  • "It provided access to numerous guards, drivers and managers if I have a problem."

"To establish a foundation for providing increased job satisfaction, engendering a pride in the work performed and the organisation to which we belong."
Throughout the mentors' evaluations there was an open expression that teamwork, building trust and supportive relationships were emerging from the program. The retention of staff and understanding their own responsibilities were positive outcomes. Typical comments from the mentors were:

  • "We are part of a team."
  • "I think it is important especially with the Olympics."
  • "Guards are very young now and they are aware of their responsibility."

These comments, and the other responses reported in the above sections, reflected a strong positive foundation upon which job satisfaction, pride and ownership could be extended. Feedback from management and Train Crews outside the program was that the pilot groups were visibly keener and more enthusiastic, asked questions more readily, were more informed and performed better than previous guard schools.

"To build working partnerships between mentors and mentorees which support and are supported by the entire Train Crewing workforce."
Both the mentors and mentorees reported a general perception that as people understood the program better they supported the program. These views were reflected in comments from mentors that are listed throughout the evaluations:

  • "Some thought it was a waste of time but after discussions all agreed it was beneficial."
  • "Other guards who thought it was stupid are now looking at being mentors themselves."
  • "Comments from older guards about the program are usually positive."
  • "Great idea - consensus being that having a mentor is a big plus."

Mentorees' comments reflect a similar understanding of support for mentoring:

  • "Mentors get a boost from supporting new guards."
  • "Gives new recruits great confidence."
  • "95% of all drivers and guards think program is a good idea. but you will always get knockers."
  • "They generally want to know what the program involves."

Mentoring partnerships that have commenced were almost all going to continue beyond the completion of the pilot program. Although the majority in both groups believed they achieved what they agreed to in the relationship, they continued to work on other issues as they arose.

 

Move on to the next section of this article:
Success Factors of the Pilot Mentoring Program

 

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