Best Practices in Mentoring Awards help Plug the Brain Drain

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Best Practices in Mentoring Awards will recognize organizations that achieve exceptional employee retention and development results. Enlisting Baby Boomer employees and retirees to mentor and train younger workers can close the corporate knowledge brain drain. In January, the Greater Ann Arbor Society for Human Resource Management (GAASHRM) and the American Society of Employers (ASE) will once again seek applications for the Best Practices in Mentoring Award to be awarded in May 2008.

To spread the word of best practices in mentoring, the Greater Ann Arbor Society for Human Resource Management (GAASHRM) of Ann Arbor, MI partners with the American Society of Employers (ASE) of Southfield, MI, in May of 2008, will recognize Southeastern Michigan organizations with excellent mentoring programs in place.

After a rigorous application and evaluation process, in May of 2006 American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM), a global Detroit-based automotive supplier, received the first Best Practices in Mentoring Award at a well-attended presentation program. AAM had created a mentor-driven program (where the mentor picked a mentee) in 1999 but found that was too company-oriented. Mentees pushed back. The company recognized their mistake and corrected for it. Today, they have the mentee select the mentor who is in attunement with the mentee's needs.

The AAM mentoring program objectives are to retain associates (their name for employees), prepare emerging leaders for executive roles and broaden and diversify the executive team. Mentee also learn to develop their leadership competencies, engineer a better work/life balance, and navigate company politics in a safe and confidential manner. A comprehensive mentoring scorecard keeps the AAM executive committee up to date on how each corporate location is progressing. Leila St. Clair of AAM said,"The mentor program is one of the best resources that supports retention and development of an organization. Its foundation is built on the principle of people helping people. This can truly be one of the most cost effective benefits to offer your associates that contributes to the bottom-line."

In January 2008, GAASHRM & ASE will once again seek applications for the Best Practices in Mentoring Award to be awarded in May 2008. At a May 2008 awards showcase program, the top three finalists will present their mentoring programs to the GAASHRM & ASE membership and invited guests. Eligibility: Organizations (both profit and nonprofit) with 50 employees or more in operation for a minimum of five years in Southeastern Michigan.

Backgrounder:

Today, we are all "knowledge workers." Yet, few companies have figured out how to share knowledge among employees or to pass it on when workers retire or change assignments.

Most employers aren't ready for the shift that could affect thousands of their workers, given that the oldest of the 80 million-strong baby boom generation begin to retire and collect Social Security payments this year. Before boomer retirees head out the office door, it is important that they share their tacit knowledge of the company culture with those employees who will remain active in the business. Social networking techniques, phased retirement programs and other innovative methods can link older knowledgeable workers and retirees to current employees.

A majority of Baby Boomers say they want to work in retirement, but U.S. companies are only just beginning to try to figure out how to accommodate that, according to a new study. A survey conducted for financial services firm Merrill Lynch & Co. found that 71 percent of adults hope to work in retirement, with many looking for part-time jobs or an opportunity to move in and out of the work force---perhaps, during a period as a long as 10 years. Asked how prepared their companies were for boomers reaching retirement age, just 24 percent said their companies were "on track" to deal with the retirements. Some 27 percent said they were "in the midst of preparing," 17 percent said they were just getting started, and 31 percent said their companies hadn't given it much thought.

To help organizations retain the Boomer generation's valuable knowledge, mentoring programs are linking older workers and retirees with current employees to help them understand the corporate culture. Some companies are using social networking techniques, phased retirement programs and other innovative methods to link older knowledgeable workers and retirees to the company and its current employees.

The mentor and mentee relationship is one of mutual benefit. The mentor gains the satisfaction of helping develop the talent and mentees get access to "someone who has been there" as knowledge and experience is shared from one generation to another. My successful people believe a key factor in their success was and is having a mentor or coach. Mentoring programs have become popular ways for organizations to groom "high potential" employees for future leadership positions. Companies are hot on the practice these days, believing it encourages loyalty, diversity, and cohesion. Fully half of the 500 biggest businesses in the U.S. now offer mentoring, up from about 10% five years ago, according to Menttium Corp., which sets up such programs for corporations.

Mentoring takes on many forms. Mentoring can be a one-shot intervention or a lifelong relationship. It can be carried out informally, as relationships develop on their own, or formally as part of a highly structured program. One of the most common problems, especially with formal programs, is simply that the mentor and mentee are incompatible. Even the best intentions and most thorough questionnaires can't always identify what might really irritate you about the other person. Many companies have discovered that it is best for the mentee to choose his or her mentor rather than having the company do the matching.

Here are three steps for preventing a brain drain where you work:

Identify your vulnerabilities. Create an age profile of your workforce by work unit or by function. Determine the average age of employees in each unit and identify who's likely to retire or leave the company for other reasons.

Identify types of knowledge at risk. Use interviewing and social network analysis software to find out what knowledge is most valuable. This will help you decide where to focus your knowledge-retention efforts.

Choose your tactics. If you're focusing on transferring "tacit" knowledge, or experience that is hard to catalog, establish mentoring programs that bring older and younger workers together for extended periods.                                                                        

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