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State Rail Train Crewing Pilot Mentoring Program

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



Train Crewing
Train Crewing wish to build on the success of the pilot and have continued mentoring programs for Schools 1 and 2/98 for Trainee Guards. The following recommendations are already under review with Train Crewing management and are endorsed here:

  • trial the next mentoring workshops offsite in response to requests from Schools 9 & 10/97 and 1/98. This will:
    • shift the 'mindset' from technical training and old paradigm views
    • provide a change of environment to Trainee Guards after 6 weeks to reinforce a different, additional type of learning
    • give the program special status and 'reward' mentors in particular.
  • combine Schools 9 & 10/97 for the "celebration" to thank them for participation in the pilots. Simon Lane, Chief Executive Officer and Arthur Smith, Chief Operations Manager to be invited as well as Roger McAlister, Manager Train Crewing (now Deputy Chief Operations Manager) and present mentors with 'mentor' insignia. Possibly give an engraved pen or compass or similar to mentorees. Presentation on what they have learned to be given by selection of mentors and mentorees.
  • trial rostering mentors with their Trainee Guard mentorees 2 weeks into working as Guards, for 1-3 days.
  • extend mentoring program to new drivers.
  • consider mentoring for established Guards
  • Develop "co-ordinator's guidelines" based on pilot success factors to step future program co-ordinators through the set up and management process for mentoring groups. Include proforma invitations, information letters, bio data, questions etc.

State Rail
State Rail can be confident that the mentoring process trialled by Train Crewing is applicable to other divisions. While no two mentoring programs are identical as they are tailored to local requirements and the outcomes to be achieved, the tested approach provides a consistent foundation.

Train Crewing objectives focused on :

  • induction
  • retention
  • equity

Other objectives that mentoring can support include:

  • fast track skills development (eg customer service)
  • managing change
  • career development
  • rebuilding morale/teams
  • leadership development.

The core process can be fine tuned depending on the outcomes most needed. In the preparations for the Olympics, mentoring programs can provide an excellent tool for ensuring the right staff and skills are there when you need them.

We suggest that consideration be given to station staff for extending mentoring in the first instance. Any areas where groups of new or transferred people need to get up to speed quickly and productively would also be a priority for State Rail.

Mentoring Program Co-ordination
In applying the success factors from the Train Crewing pilot to other parts of State Rail, emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of continuity in program co-ordination.

Staff mobility is the norm in State Rail as in other organisations so a team of coordinators is preferable for the management of programs.

We recommend following the Train Crewing model of one-two central State Rail Human Resources personnel and one-two divisional personnel for the coordinating teams for each program. In this way you will:

  • continually grow the core mentoring expertise in State Rail
  • ensure consistent management and support for each program
  • share the administrative load
  • share the learning from one program to another as mentoring evolves in the culture

We have been impressed with the calibre of the two people primarily involved in managing the pilot, and strongly recommend building on the knowledge of how mentoring programs work and their organising and people skills for the benefit of future programs. In particular, we recommend that there is a quality and coordination role included in the H.R. Project Manager's responsibilities. This role can also act as a conduit for updates on advances in the mentoring field nationally and internationally, to the rest of the organisation.

The Manager of the Train Crew Assignment Centre is ideally placed to coordinate future programs in Train Crewing to contribute his extensive knowledge of the people who work there.

Footnote: November 1999

This report led to the mentoring program being extended across State Rail.

All of the above recommendations have been implemented. 310 Mentors and 290 Mentorees are now part of the Train Crew Mentoring Program.

"I want people across State Rail who are new to their jobs to benefit from the career, performance and personal gains that Guards and Drivers in Train Crewing experience from their mentoring program," says Simon Lane, SRA Chief Executive.


Move on to the next section of this article: Strategy to Extend Mentoring in State Rail


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