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Mentoring Across the Generation Gap

August 14, 2009

Nowadays, the age-old image of the wise, older sage imparting wisdom and
knowledge to the younger, less experienced protégé no longer epitomizes the
typical mentoring relationship. “Modern” mentoring relationships are far more
varied and wider in scope.

Today’s mentoring relationships do not conform to age-based hierarchy, but adjust

to fulfill the needs of employees of all ages. They enable young graduates with
experience in the newest technology to be Mentors to older employees who have
not yet had the opportunity to learn about that technology. Likewise, they ensure
that experienced employees impart leadership skills, competencies and behaviors
to their younger counterparts, so that the latter can continue to build a solid, stable
organization with promising growth prospects. Ultimately, they can help Baby
Boomers, Generation “Xers”, and Generation “Yers” compromise and build
consensus in the same team or working environment.

A New Generation of Mentoring

Today’s Mentors and Mentees have different roles from their past counterparts.
Today’s Mentors must not only be able to teach, coach and impart knowledge, but
must also be open to a 2-way dynamic exchange of ideas between them and the
Mentees. Today’s Mentees can no longer look to the Mentor to lead the relationship,
but must drive the relationship and take half of the responsibility for its outcome.

Updating Outdated Mentoring Myths There is an exciting and new focus for
mentoring that can meet everyone’s needs, but it means adjusting old and outdated
perceptions of mentoring to fit in with the times. What are the newest

• A Mentor is an individual with a specific degree of experience, knowledge,

and/or skill set who is willing and able to share this information with another
• A Mentee is an individual who seeks experience, knowledge and/or skills in a
specific area and who looks to another individual(s) to gain that which is
• Mentoring consists of a relationship in which an experienced individual
advises or trains someone with less knowledge or experience in a given area.
So long as one individual imparts what another wants to learn, there is value in the
mentoring relationship regardless of each individual’s hierarchy within the
organization. Traditionally, Mentor-Mentee pairs were created from the “top-down”
theory. The Mentor was always at a higher position or title than the Mentee. The
Mentee felt that he/she was interacting with an individual that would help him/her
advance within the organization. This focus, although still valuable, is now merely
one segment among several of how mentoring is used today.


Mentoring - Helping leaders and

managers grow and develop.

October 12, 2009

Growing leadership expertise in a short period of time within an organization is a

continual challenge. The speed of projects and the speed for innovation have
increased so that we are shoving people into positions of management and
leadership in an ever-increasing pace. How are they going to learn? But more
important, how are they going to be able to quickly apply what they have learned
within their organizational culture and business environment? In the past, an
individual would learn skills and knowledge through training, education and
experience, and the organization could afford to wait around for him/her to come up
to speed. But today, organizations need to have their people learn – and be able to
apply that learning – more quickly.

Studies have proven that there are limits as to how fast you can drive education
and training and have it be effective. Also, due to economic constraints within
organizations, many times the problem is not how fast to drive the education and
training, but how to even find available dollars and resources to get it to individuals
that are destined to lead the organization now and in the future. What can
organizations do to help solve this dilemma and assist in the transition between
“education” and “experience”? Mentoring can assist.

By definition a Mentor is an individual with the experience, knowledge, and/or skills

in a specific content area who is able, willing, and available to share this information
with another individual. There is nothing in this definition that denotes that the
Mentor must be older, of a higher job grade level, or have been with the
organization for a longer period of time. The most important aspect is that the
Mentor has “experience”, “knowledge” and “skills” that he/she wants to share with
someone who needs them. In many cases, it may not even be the “knowledge” or
the “skills”, but the “experience” – the application of that knowledge – that is

We have learned that under the direction of the Mentor, the learner is given
immediate access to valuable insights and past experiences. Within mentoring
relationships, individuals are learning by doing. Individuals are able to practice what
they are learning. Another advantage of mentoring to an organization is that it
showcases those individuals that have the necessary skills/competencies to coach
and develop others. Many times these are the same types of skills/competencies
that an organization wants displayed in its leadership. Even individuals that do not
wish to take on a “managerial” or “supervisory” role within the organization can
satisfy a need to “lead” through a mentoring relationship as well as allowing the
organization to tap into a greater pool of talent/skill.

Many times individuals do not get any experience in specific coaching roles until
after they have been given the title of “manager” or “supervisor”. This means they
are in a reactive mode of learning these skills/competencies. If individuals have the
opportunity to learn and practice these skills/competencies as a Mentor before they
obtain the title of “manager” or “supervisor”, it is proactive and much better for
them as well as the organization.

Mentoring – Enhancing Diversity Strategically and
Sustainably for Real Business Results
April 21, 2010

In today's world, best-in-class organizations understand that racial, cultural,

and gender diversity in the workplace is no longer a nice-to-have, but a
necessity in order to remain competitive and deliver sustainable bottom line
results. A diverse and inclusive organization is able to recognize and fully
deploy a wide range of knowledge and skills, reach out to an increasingly
diverse clientele, and motivate all talented employees from all backgrounds
to perform their best. For companies who want to increase market share,
slice turnover costs, enhance productivity, or globalize, it's not a question of
whether to promote diversity but how to do it in the best way possible.
But all too often, corporate diversity initiatives are ineffective. And when
they are, it's usually "diversity" as an ideal that gets blamed. It's quick and
easy for top management to conclude that promoting diversity isn't
profitable. It's much harder to admit that the problem lies not with diversity
itself, but with the way it's being promoted in the workplace and why.
According to a study conducted by the Washington Post, the diversity
training offered at most firms were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the
number of women in management. The number of black female managers
fell by 10 percent, and the number of black men in top positions fell by 12
percent. Similar effects were seen for Latinos and Asians. The research
showed that mandatory programs -often undertaken to avoid discrimination
lawsuits – were ineffective for promoting diversity. Conversely, when
diversity training is voluntary and strategic, it was associated with increased
diversity in management roles.
Apart from the limited success of mandatory programs, could there be yet
another reason why many diversity initiatives fail? The answer lies in the way
in which organizations define diversity. Is measuring diversity as simple as a
numbers game? Can an organization with 50% men and 50% women in top
management positions, or an equal proportion of each race or ethnicity, truly
boast diversity? In reality, the kind of diversity that enhances organizational
culture and heightens the bottom line cannot simply be defined by the
number of positions attained in high places. In today's organizations, true
"diversity" requires that individuals of various genders and cultural
backgrounds are included not only in leadership positions at the top of the
talent pipeline - but also that employees at all levels and of all backgrounds
have a supportive, dynamic network within these organizations to facilitate
their way to those positions.
Among the wide array of potential diversity initiatives, formal mentoring
programs for diversity and inclusion are highly effective for helping women
and minority employees to build that crucial network of individuals who can
help them improve their knowledge and skills and progress in their careers.
What specific benefits does mentoring for diversity bring to an organization?

Mentoring focuses not on diversity as an end in itself, but diversity
as a means, as the strategy behind a stronger bottom line. While
initiatives such as mandatory diversity training and race/gender quotas for
recruitment can deliver the statistics that paint a picture of diversity, formal
mentoring programs create bi-directional relationships and networks that
actually generate sustainable diversity over the long term. By definition,
mentoring establishes voluntary partnerships that enable individuals to
share their knowledge and experiences with one another. This produces
diversity that is internally motivated and perpetuated, not mandated or
stigmatized, within the organization. Such diversity is part of a solid strategy
for enhancing the bottom line.
Mentoring enables managers to leverage talent they may not even
know they have. According to Frank Dobin, an organizational psychologist
at Harvard who was quoted in the Washington Post, women and minorities
find it tough to get ahead because most people, including managers, tend to
form social groups with similar people -- and many managers are simply
unaware of the talent in their own organizations. Mentoring programs that
require or explicitly encourage managers to connect with subordinates in
different departments can alert managers to talented employees with
different social and ethnic backgrounds, and help younger employees figure
out what they need to do to get ahead. Organizations that understand their
own talent are well-equipped to look within their organization to fill
necessary positions – cutting hiring and onboarding costs by simply
redeploying instead.
Mentoring empowers employees to navigate their career paths in a
way that best fits the culture of their organization. Different
organizational cultures require different strategies for career development.
Without sufficient experience working in the organization and navigating its
politics, culture and hierarchy, employees may have trouble defining realistic
professional goals and working to achieve them. Mentoring facilitates the
sharing of valuable experiences and insights within the organization that
guide the mentee toward educated career navigation. If the mentor-mentee
relationship is cross-cultural, for example, a mentor from the “majority”
culture can guide the mentee from the “minority” culture on how to best
navigate a majority-dominated system. Conversely, if the mentee is paired
with an individual from the same cultural/gender-specific group, then the
mentee has access to an idea role model with lessons on how to overcome
any particular obstacles associated with the experience he or she is likely to
get. Both avenues propel retention.
Case Study Example(shakshi)
A large US insurance company decided to develop a diversity mentoring
program targeted toward minority employees (both racial/cultural minorities
and women). The purpose was to offer these employees an opportunity to
learn from and network with successful leaders in the organization. The
company identified and trained mentors from various levels of the
organization – not just senior management.
A particular challenge that minority employees often faced involved the
ongoing education requirements instated by the company, which many of
them had neither the time nor the money to complete. Through the
mentoring partnerships, employees gained a better understanding of the
company’s culture and why those requirements existed, and also received
advice and assistance on the best ways to obtain the necessary
requirements to advance their careers. Most notably, upon conclusion of the
program, the mentees reported that the most crucial benefit they gained
from the program was the opportunity to build networks with individuals
outside their own departments and job functions. Ultimately, the mentoring
program enabled various leaders across the company to notice key players
in their talent pool – beneficial for both the minority mentees and company
strategy as a whole.
Cutting-Edge Mentoring Solutions for an Effective Diversity
Insala’s mentoring solutions enable organizations to launch and deliver effective
and sustainable mentoring programs for diversity and inclusion. Insala provides a
wide array of mentoring solutions including program implementation, program
evaluation, mentoring readiness consulting, mentor training, mentoring technology,
and more. In particular, our consultants work to help organizations identify key
business objectives and metrics, leverage core competencies, and develop
mentoring programs that align with overall talent and business goals. Our
interactive mentoring software features advanced matching and pairing tools,
robust reporting capabilities, the ability to manage multiple programs from a single
portal, mentor-mentee communication tools, and more - enhancing both
administrative efficiency and the participant experience.