In an effort to meet a number of objectives, learning styles, diversity in experience and product/service exposure, SWBC has launched a unique mentoring program. It is for this effort that the finance company was named one of the leading private-sector learning organizations in this magazine’s Learning! 100 competition for 2015.
According to SWBC vice president of Training and Employee Development Mandy Smith, the majority of its employees had indicated they wanted to participate in a mentoring program, but they had little to no experience or knowledge of how to do it.
“The result is a fairly structured program, where mentors and mentees (protege) learn how to get the most out of the program,” she wrote in her nomination form. The group as a whole met regularly to discuss objectives, goals, experience and success stories. Subsequently, participants were given instructions on how to get the most out of the programs, like how often to have meetings, agenda suggestions and goal-setting.
Initially, program administrators were concerned about whether mentors/mentees would be able to commit to a year-long program. They also wanted to ensure that the established methods of matching mentors to mentees would be successful.
An accelerated pilot program kicked off the effort, to ensure its structure would be successful. The 20 voluntary employees who participated in the pilot program were very generous with their feedback, which was almost all positive. They were able to share some suggestions, and as a result program administrators were able to develop additional tools (handouts, worksheets, etc.) before officially launching the program. The pilot group also served as champions of the program. They were so excited and were benefiting so much, they spread the word, so there was a lot of enthusiasm among employees prior to the official launch.
“We wanted the program to have some richness and depth,” Smith admits. So face-to-face interactions among employees who work in the same locations was one of the keys. “But we have employees across the country, so they may use Skype and SharePoint – which helps us collect and have discussions and have a landing place – and eLogic for enrollment, record-keeping and launching surveys.”
Employees who are interested in the program fill out application forms and get approval from their managers. Then Human Resources and Training personnel go through the applications, determining short- and long-term goals, areas of strengths and world experience to share. Then they make the pairings.
Members of SWBC’s executive management team also are very active as mentors – and they take the role very seriously, because it demonstrates their dedication to the employees as a whole.
“The initial results were better than we anticipated,” Smith continues, citing a survey that showed unanimous approval of the mentor/mentee matches. “Not only was the participant feedback positive, we heard stories of process improvements taking place across division lines. In addition, six of the 30 participants received promotions during their program and attribute their success to their mentor.”
In the future, many of the mentoring program’s core pieces will remain steady, but with different business units and different employees becoming involved, administrators will need to evolve to their needs. “We need to bring in additional development opportunities, like having a dedicated session/workshop on communication skills,” Smith concludes.
SWBC is a first-time Learning! 100 winner.