If you know anything about Helios, you might be aware of the Helios Apollo Awards. We started this program to recognize and reward employers who promote employee development within their organization to stay focused on the future. One category judged in the application is the opportunities available for mentoring. Many attendees after the awards program ask us how they can begin developing these programs after realizing it can be a real value to the organization. We understand that the implementation, funding, or simply finding the time to focus on employee development does not always come easy, but we are here to help get you started. Here’s some general information to consider as you begin thinking about starting your own internal mentoring program.
Starting an Internal Mentoring Program
A mentoring program is often implemented as part of the development activities for an organization’s performance management system. Once you establish a program, mentoring is a useful development tool, enabling a more experienced employee to support and help develop other employees, thus, growing their knowledge, network, and career, all linking back to the business strategy. However, mentoring should not take the place of formal development activities, but should be used to strengthen an organization’s performance management system. Effective mentor programs will match the mentor and mentee based on their skills and development needs, and will also construct formal goals and include a process for monitoring the relationship.
Mentoring can also be used to aid a new employee in acclimating to the culture of the organization. Although mentoring can be utilized in helping employees better understand the company’s operations, policies, and culture, the mentor should not take on the role and responsibilities of the mentee’s manager. To ensure positive outcomes, , as this could lead to mismatched pairs and frustrations for both the mentor and mentee.
The Benefits of Mentoring Programs
The success of a mentor program can be defined by the program’s return on investment (ROI). The ROI metrics can be tracked through many sources including employee surveys, performance appraisals, interviews, and focus groups. Mentoring is a way to support and encourage employees to manage their own learning. It enables people to develop skills, improve performance, and maximize their potential. “Individuals who are mentored have an increased likelihood of career success as a result of the targeted developmental support they receive” (NOVA SHRM, 2012). The process of mentoring facilitates the flow of information and ideas throughout the company, enabling cross-functional knowledge sharing. Mentoring can promote diversity in the workplace, provide inexpensive opportunities for growth and development reduce turnover.
NOVA SHRM. (2012). Mentoring Program Toolkit. Retrieved October 3, 2012 from http://www.shrm.org
By Colleen Shannon, SPHR, Senior HR Business Partner
One of the most powerful ways to develop leaders within your organization is to build an environment of accountability; where others are held to keep the commitments they make and where poor performance is addressed and eliminated. As Thomas E. Ricks wrote recently in What Ever Happened to Accountability?, Harvard Business Review, “When standards are not rigorously upheld and inadequate performance is allowed to endure…the effect is not only to rob an enterprise of some of its potential. It is to lose the standards themselves and let the most important capabilities of leadership succumb to atrophy.” While most leaders implicitly accept the importance of accountability, many struggle to foster it in their organizations, especially in today’s fluid business environment.
Here are some practical ways to promote accountability within your organization:
- Set standards and be clear about them: What are your expectations? What does success look like and how will it be measured or evaluated? What timeline is appropriate? By identifying and clearly communicating, you’ll meet the basic need for information on the “mission” for a specific initiative, project, or task, and provide a framework for success.
- Hold others accountable for the end, but not necessarily the means: In today’s dynamic work environment, be prepared for changing circumstances and avoid being wedded to a certain process unless absolutely necessary. Help your leaders become invested in and accountable for their actions by fostering their ability to devise their own plans and solutions. Use coaching questions such as “did you consider…?“, “can you help me understand why…?“, and “why do you think…?” Respect that someone else’s methods may not mirror yours and look for them to create progress toward the end result.
- Assess and discuss progress: As you set expectations, also establish assessment checkpoints. Use your organization’s performance management program as one mechanism to assess progress; just don’t make it the only checkpoint. Use one-on-one meetings as described below and other avenues such as status reports and metrics to determine if performance is on track. Address less-than-expected results quickly and candidly, and provide advice for course corrections. Additionally, make sure to take time to acknowledge when progress is moving along well.
- Eliminate fear as a motivator: Allow room for error and the learning/growth that accompanies it. Make a point of sharing your own mistakes, their consequences, and how you did things differently going forward.
- Communicate your commitment: Regular communication, such as weekly one-on-one meetings, is one of the best ways to build an environment of accountability. Through such meetings, you can exchange performance feedback and progress information and address performance obstacles. One of the most powerful ways you can show your commitment is by modeling accountability yourself—make keeping your own commitments a hallmark of your behavior.
Triumph Enterprises CEO, Scott Ulvi ensures success by utilizing the power of his team’s intellect, advancing a culture of exceptional performance, promoting creative and innovative solutions and above all, embracing change. After winning a 2012 Apollo Award and recently being named a Government Contractor of the Year finalist by the Fairfax Chamber, we think he must be onto something. Read more to find out!
Helios: What’s your passion as a leader, Scott?
Scott Ulvi: If I had to boil it down, it would be to help the employees understand what our vision is for the company and to get them into a position where they can be significant contributors to realizing the vision.
Helios: Will you go into more detail about what that vision is for Triumph?
Scott Ulvi: Our vision has existed since the beginning of Triumph about 7 years ago. It’s helping people navigate how to manage the uncertainty from the current state to seeing the future. People get locked into their day to day thinking with their heads down at their desks plugging away, and it’s hard to pull your head up to look down the road. Our vision helps leaders prepare to become adaptable to their clients accelerating change along with their own.
Helios: How does Triumph embrace change both internally and with your clients as you’ve grown?
Scott Ulvi: Let’s start internal. The strategy has always been to be a growth company. We knew that we would grow fast and aggressively, but with control. So in developing our goals and objectives, we keep our plans for growth in mind and think about what we will need to change as we are moving forward.
When you experience a challenge with a client, you learn from it and discover what you can do differently making you grow. I’ve found that anytime we’re faced friction or difficulties it’s because of one of the two things: communication - and by this I mean not only talking, but listening as well and managing expectations is the second. Clearly identifying expectations and creating a process to monitor them on a regular basis was one of our best lessons learned. We tend to work towards continuous improvement.
Helios: How does your organization align individual goals to the organization’s strategic goals?
Scott Ulvi: Our company strategy is evolving over time as you would expect with a company changing. My goal is to become a significant company and identify the customers we’re serving. The rest of it gets identified with our leadership team who take pieces of the strategy and translates it into plans that are tied to goals for each individual and the organization. The infrastructure must support the goals to maintain the culture and focus we have on our clients and our people. This keeps pace with the change and allows us not flip upside down.
Helios: Describe the impact of an employee engagement initiative that you are most proud of.
Scott Ulvi: We saw this in black and white. When we didn’t win the Apollo Awards in 2011, we noticed that the one thing we were missing was focus on employee engagement. This year, we hired an outside company to design and implement employee engagement surveys. Here’s what we heard: we’re a fun place to work, leadership asks for feedback and in return they give it to us freely. Their voices get heard because we act on their feedback and communicate what progress is being made.
Helios: What’s your culture like at Triumph?
Scott Ulvi: We’re all about our clients – both external and internal so we’ve fostered an environment that is completely client centric. Each ring of our infrastructure focuses on our clients whether directly or indirectly. The leadership team welcomes open lines of communication and routinely recognize and reward employee contributions. We also promote an environment that encourage team members to develop and expand their skill sets and organizes several social gatherings and team building events throughout the year.
Helios: What’s one type of community service activity that you do?
Scott Ulvi: Triumph hosts an annual Charity Golf Tournament supporting the Army Emergency Relief. Army Emergency Relief takes care of Soldiers and their Families by providing financial assistance in a time of need.
Since our first tournament, we’ve gone from raising $4,000 to $38,000 in donations this year. We were able to do this from having an established operational team in the company who put this on and by the people touched by this cause. We had a record breaking number of 134 golfers and sponsors this year. We had a great bunch of partners and friends who were supportive of the cause and stepped up to contribute.
Click here to find out more about Triumph’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament.
Do you have advice for organizations going through change?
Plan and communicate because things will happen that you don’t anticipate. You can’t just have the managers or the seniors by in, you need to engage, develop and train everyone to be part of the planning process. Aligning the top-level strategies and mid-level strategies should be automatic.
Make sure you address lessons that can be learned in your future planning. Challenges turn into positive surprises.
Triumph Enterprises is bringing a new level of service to the Federal contracting field, delivering proactive solutions to their client’s mission responsibilities and their need for fast and effective solutions. They provide Management Solutions, Training and Exercise Solutions, Information Technology Solutions, Event Planning Solutions, and Technical Solutions. For more information, please visit http://www.triumph-enterprises.com.
I had a professional “light bulb” moment just a few years ago. The “light bulb” was about feedback and the concept of effectively offering it. Not only could I offer feedback in an organized and objective way, but when I did, I supported the employee, deepened our professional trust and impacted the company’s retention and employee engagement by investing in professional development. While I’ve managed people much longer than a few years, I have to say in retrospect that prior to this enlightening moment, I was probably just an average manager. Ever since I began offering feedback that was intentional and consistent in strategy and approach, it’s made my job as a manager much easier and helped me actively retain strong performers.
According to a recent article in Talent Management magazine (May 2012), approximately 21 million Americans are planning to change jobs in 2012 and that’s despite the still high unemployment rate and an unstable economy. The article further goes on to emphasize the importance of performance management, one component of which is ongoing and effective feedback as a mechanism to offset this migration of talent.
So what does all this mean? What is this concept and how do you provide feedback effectively and constructively?
Feedback begins with a well thought out conversation to communicate information about a person’s performance and increase their awareness. It can be motivational (encourage continuation of effective performance) or developmental (raise awareness around the need to adjust behavior or performance). In progressive corporate cultures, feedback is typically encouraged among supervisors, peers, and employees (vertically and horizontally). A good place to start in your organization is to focus on the feedback exchange between employees and their managers.
Common themes in effective feedback
While there are rich models and approaches to offering effective feedback, all offering slight variations, there are some common themes:
- Specific — Feedback is most impactful when the employee is very clear on the event or situation a manager is referencing. Talk about when something happened and what, specifically, you observed. Seeks opportunities to praise effective performance and to support increased awareness of behaviors that might require change.
- Objective — This can be tricky and it is where managers can get stuck. Avoid judgments and assumptions about why an employee did what they did or behaved the way they did. Nothing shuts down a discussion more quickly than a manager inferring the reasons for an employee’s behavior. The truth is only the employee knows that answer. And actually, why something happened doesn’t matter as much as the impact the behavior had on another person, project or the company. Let the employee share the —why,— if it’s relevant to the discussion.
- Timely and Frequent — Like most relationships, the foundation of solid workplace relationships is the trust that is built over time. An employee that recognizes a pattern of consistent, appropriate feedback (motivational and developmental) from their manager is going to recognize the manager’s investment in their growth and in them as a person.
As you take this information and think about how you could apply it in your workplace, give yourself permission to be as formal or informal as you need to be. If your company is ready to implement a feedback program company-wide, fantastic. Even if this is not a company initiative or practice, make it a part of your management style. Not only will your employees recognize your investment and reward you with greater productivity, engagement and retention, but in time, you’ll be able to reward the company by improving the bottom line (Talent Management, May 2012).
Mary Browse Blood, PHR, HR Business Partner
Acknowledgement and appreciation of employees is essential for a more positive, productive, and profitable organization. According to Justin Schuster, Vice President of Enterprise Products at MarketTools, Inc., “A strong correlation exists between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and ultimately a company’s revenue and profitability.” In recognition of the upcoming Employee Appreciation Day on March 2nd, now is the ideal time to acknowledge employees as your company’s most valuable assets.
The 2011 Employee Recognition Programs survey, by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce found that 8 out of 10 organizations have employee recognition programs in place. According to the same survey, the most common reason for recognizing employees is related to their length of service with the company (58%). This is followed closely by recognition for going ‘above and beyond’ with an unexpected work project (48%), and successful performance results that relate to a company’s bottom line (43%). Other considerations for recognition include exemplary behavior aligning with organizational values (37%); completion of regular work projects with high-quality results (9%); and completion of regular work projects at a faster than usual pace (2%).
Despite the positive numbers reflecting an active interest in employee recognition programs, another survey released in 2011 by MarketTools, Inc., found that nearly 50 percent of the employees surveyed have considered leaving their jobs. Financial compensations and rewards, while helpful, are not enough. The value of intrinsic motivation is beyond measure and one of the most powerful tools in a manager’s arsenal is public recognition for a job well done. For example, at Hewlett-Packard an engineer surprised his manager with a clever solution and received a banana as an award from the manager, who was otherwise at a loss for ways to reward the employee. Thus began the “Golden Banana Award”, which is now awarded to employees who establish new and innovative solutions to problems. This reward is a terrific example of how developing formal and frequent recognition programs do not necessarily have to include financial raises or bonuses to make a significant and positive impact on employee morale.
While public recognition is important, the message a company presents with its recognition programs is just as critical. quot;Really powerful recognition has to do with the feeling and energy behind it, at no cost,” says Alan G. Robinson, author of Ideas are Free (Berrett-Koelher Publishers, 2004). Employers who engage employees in the design process of their recognition programs are more likely to achieve employee buy-in and will notice increased motivation to achieve results deserving of recognition. Employees who are encouraged to share their ideas for rewards and recognition while setting their own measurable goals will recognize that they are a part of a dynamic and continually developing team.
Employees may accept a position based on salary and benefits; but employees will remain with a company when they feel appreciated and valued. Employers, who do more than throw money at their employees and take the time to recognize individuals, as well as team achievements, will be the ultimate winners. While March 2nd is a great day to revisit a company’s employee recognition strategy, 2012 is a great year to “go above and beyond” with a company’s recognition strategies thereby leveraging a more engaged, positive, and productive workforce.