Ohio State University Extension Service – Peer Mentoring Program Evaluation Report
By: Linda M. Kutilek and Cindy Taylor
- The Ohio State University Extension Organization New Employee Program
- The New Employee & the Organization’s Responsibilities
- Peer Mentoring Program Support
- The Peer Mentor’s Role
- Evaluation of Matches and Effectiveness
- On-Going Challenges
- Mentoring Contact Person for Each District
- Program Accomplishments
The Ohio State University Extension Organization New Employee Program
The thought of accepting a new position with the Ohio State University Extension Organization in one of Ohio’s 88 counties can be exciting. However, the responsibility of working with youth, adults, volunteers, and the community to develop and deliver educational programs in the local Extension unit can also be overwhelming. In order to maintain the Extension’s focus of providing successful programs with impact, and to support new employees in achieving that success, the Ohio State University Extension has developed a multi-layered structure to address professional development needs, and it has conducted a program evaluation to share what we have learned constitutes effective mentor programming.
This multi-component development program structure includes:
- provision of professional support teams
- ongoing training requirements and choices
- a peer mentoring program.
A new employee’s focus is:
- to be successful,
- to be recognized as a contributing, successful employee.
The organization has a responsibility to assist the new staff member in:
- enhancing job performance
- fostering creativity and the acceptance of responsibilities
- reducing new employee turnover
- providing a practical viewpoint
- focus on particular roles and responsibilities, and…
- enhancing the diversity of Extension programming.
To assist in meeting these organizational goals, a peer mentoring program has been designed by Extension employees. Peer mentors are Extension coworkers who are assigned to support new employees during their first year. Peer mentors:
- provide non-evaluative support for new employees
- create an open atmosphere for dialogue and growth
- facilitate new employee professional learning and development
- guide new employees to develop continuing sensitivity and practical competencies to deal with social, economic, and political changes in the state.
A mentor is defined as a trusted advisor, friend, and teacher. The ability to function in these ways is protected by defining a peer as a non-evaluator. Critical to the mentor/protégé relationship are
- an early start for mentoring immediately after hiring
- developing familiarity with each other
- agreement upon goals
- development of mutual trust and confidentiality.
All potential mentors are required to participate in a training session. This training is provided prior to being selected so mentors are knowledgeable about what is expected of them before they make the commitment to be a mentor.
To help in creating effective mentoring pairs, each potential mentor and protégé is asked to complete a bio-sketch form which includes information about:
- personal contact and demographic information
- professional experience
- work-related interests
- areas of specialization
- hobbies and other non-work interests
- family, and other such personal information.
An evaluation is conducted after three and twelve months to assess satisfaction with the pairing and the process.
One of the biggest struggles for our mentoring participants has been the distance between mentor and protégé – they are often several counties apart. Others mention difficulty with the time commitment, although the majority of pairs indicate they met six or more times during the year.
A unique feature of this program has been the establishment of the District Mentoring Contact Person. This position has proven to be important in sustaining the effectiveness of this state-wide program.
- A district is defined as an administrative group of 6-19 Extension units.
- A contact in each district helps to locally facilitate and monitor the progress of each mentor/protégé pair. Contacts are responsible for:
- maintaining regular communication with the pairs
- providing follow-up support with protégés two weeks and three months after pairing
- serving on the State Mentoring Development Committee
- assisting mentors with information about upcoming events
- disseminating information about programs for the protégés
- resolution of problem situations as they arise.
Within the last three years, approximately one hundred mentor/protégé partnerships have been created. With the recent addition of peer mentoring for support staff, the potential exists for an additional 40 pairs
to be formed in the upcoming year. Although the mentoring pair is established for the first year of an employee’s career, many of the relationships have continued beyond that point. New staff members also indicate that the experience provides temporary support until they are able to become more familiar with other coworkers and find links to personally chosen mentors within the organization.
Linda M. Kutilek is a member of the Human Resources Team, New Personnel Development, and an Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University Extension.
Cindy Taylor is a graduate research assistant for the Human Resources Team at the Ohio State University