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HR Solutions

Mentors and Managers
Stretched too Thin



    Last month the Wall Street Journal looked at corporate mentoring programs and found some unimpressive news ("Career Mentors Today Seem Short on Advice But Give a Mean Tour"  Marketplace p. 1, August 28).  "The assigned-mentor system is the corporate answer to cutbacks," the Journal finds, but the mentors too often pay little attention to their mentees.  To compound the problem, performance matters are delegated by the over-loaded managers of the employees to the mentors, who in turn lack the time, training, and experience to play the role of de facto supervisor.

    Evidence shows that the mentor often is a distant figure who has no attachment to the rookie and no stake in this person's future.

    Detached managers and uninterested mentors can make for legal problems.  Launching a mentor program may be dangerous if  is going to involve new workers who report to over-loaded managers.   If you are intent on implementing a mentor program, it is critical that the experienced employees you enlist for this work:

    -commit to demonstrable hands-on teaching and support of the mentee
    -take no part in supervising the mentee
    -are accountable for their mentoring based on follow-up with the mentee, HR, and the manager

    If the mentor winds up supervising, you risk breaking cardinal rules of human resources administration:   consistency (two bosses risk inconsistent supervision), communication (two bosses telling the same person opposite things - or no things because each thought the other was communicating), and chronicles (who's documenting what?).

    Obviously the best mentor should be the boss, but lately the boss has no time.  Perhaps mentoring should be scrapped and we should return to the old-fashioned notion of training new recruits in groups, using trainers who know how.

9/7/07