MENTORING AT A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM –
FitzGerald Communications, based in Cambridge, Mass.,finds itself trying to hire and keep employees in a job market in which employees can easily jump across the street for more money and perks. DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR TO YOU OR TO YOUR ORGANIZATION?
To become more competitive in recruiting the talent they need and to better retain that talent for positions that open as more senior staff retire or as the company business gfrows, this company is using a powerful mentor program.. This organization’s mentoring program is certainly there because it’s the right thing to do for it’s employees, but it’s being done the WAY it is because the company sees mentoring as critical to it’s continued and improved success. The effort is so serious, the company has produced an 18-page mentoring handbook to capture and share what they are discovering works best for their two goals of recruiting and retaining the needed talent.
According to Jennifer Wambold, the public-relations firm’s vice-president of human resources, new employees are paired up for their first 90 days with buddies from the various account teams. During this critical 90 day introductory period, the new hires learn the “lay of the land and are oriented to the company processes and work flow. They also gain a more holistic view of the entire company and it’s business. This perios pays a DOUBLE BENEFIT.
1. The introductory experience is critical because it better positions new employees to make educated choices about where they best fit in. THAT in tern helps retain the staff long-term.
2. This is also a big deal for the company because that same introductory time gives the organization the opportunity to get to know each new hire and to assess their strengths and needs. THAT allows much better long-term choices to be made about where new hires are eventually assigned to work. It pays off because these employees “stick” since their strengths better suit them to be successful and thrive where they are placed.
ORIENTATION PHASE ACTIVITIES – During that first team assignment, those newer employees design goals for their own development over the next year. Also during that orientation phase, new hires identify three mentor candidates who they think could help them. The company makes the final determination from those three candidates based on the now better known needs of the new hires and the strengths of the more experienced staff who have agreed to be mentors.
Usually it is better to assign a mentor when a new person is just hired. The first few weeks are critical “make it or break it’ weeks. However the system used here places the new hires within a team structure and that team can do a lot of the initial informal mentoring, guidance, and support until the needs of the new person are better known and the formal mentor match is made.
Once paired, the mentoring partners meet formally once each quarter. Most meet much more frequently than that. Kim Miller, an account director, says she sits down with each of her three “mentees” at least once a month. And just in case anyone was thinking about flaking out on the deal, forget about it. Before the program even starts, both mentor and mentee sign a contract. “Accountability is a key component,” Wambold says. “I know of mentor programs that have flopped because companies aren’t holding staff accountable.” To amplify the program’s importance, FitzGerald uses mentor and mentee input in its annual employee reviews.
(Editor comment- IF the mentor’s comments are only about their own experience and growth, and the protege’s review comments are only about their own experience and professional growth, there is no problem with this, Mentoring would be very weakened in it’s ultimate potential is one is perceived as ‘telling on the other”.)
It seems to work. FitzGerald’s mentoring program has helped them create a 32% turnover rate, compared with a 42% industry average, according to the trade magazine PR Week. Miller, says she thinks the mentoring program helps both attract and retain employees. “It’s partly the program that’s kept me here over three years.”