ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1997


Education 101: Redesigning Schools
Site Based Management Relocates Decision Making

Take the Good with the Bad
Positive and Negative Feedback in Creativity Sessions

Site Council Learns About Growth, Power And Communication

Knowledge Management
Taking Control of the Information Age

Etymology of a Buzzward

Investment Tip: Stay In For The Long Haul
Van Kampen American Capital Perseveres to Win AQP Excellence Award


It's About Time
by Peter Block

You Have to Be a Little Different
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Letters to the Editor

Views For A Change
Consultant Q&A

H. James Harrington Responds

This month's question has a familiar ring to it! We have heard it asked for years about the effectiveness of education and training programs. The methods are relatively straightforward. But, as with those efforts, all too often organizations adopt the conventional wisdom that the program automatically has merit, and effectiveness is assumed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some leading practices with respect to the evaluation of education and training effectiveness translate well to the mentoring program. Others require innovative approaches unique to the mentoring process.
A balanced and effective assessment process should combine three components:

I. Objective measures of performance against established goals
The key here is the extent to which those goals have been made explicit and have been translated into measurable objectives. Mentoring goals should be established at four distinct levels: Corporate, Department or Work Group, Mentor and Mentee.

Corporate and Department/Group goals should include not only the personal and professional development of mentees, but also goals that clearly support the organization's business objectives.

Mentor goals are a frequently forgotten aspect of the process. All too often, the mentoring is seen as benefiting the mentee only. Mentoring provides a unique opportunity, not easily duplicated, for the mentor to develop a variety of non-directive leadership and coaching skills whose value is becoming increasingly recognized.

Mentee goals remain, however, a core aspect of the process. An integral part of initiating the mentoring relationship is the establishment of clear, specific and agreed-upon goals to which both parties are mutually committed. These goals should include both short, interim (1-2 year) and long term (career) aspects. They should also define specific competencies to be developed, how those competencies will be developed and used, and the metrics for assessing their attainment.

II. Objective measures of possible mentoring outcomes
This comment introduces additional measures not necessarily related to stated program goals, but potentially influenced by the overall program.
A. Retention/Turnover Rates - Measure employee retention and turnover rates over time as the mentoring process expands and between those in the mentor program and those not.
B. Performance Evaluations - Compare the performance of mentees with that of employees not participating in the program. Look both at absolute performance ratings, and in improvement over time.
C. Promotion Rates/Time to Promotion - Are participants in the mentoring program advancing at a faster rate than non-participants? Is there a measurable difference in "time in grade?"
D. Problem Prevention and Resolution - If records are maintained regarding employee use of problem resolution procedures, you have an opportunity to correlate this data to participation in the mentoring program. Look at the volume of problems filed and the percentage brought to satisfactory conclusion and the extent to which participation in the mentoring process was a factor in resolving the problem.

III. Subjective (opinion based) measures
In addition to the objective data obtained from the above approaches, also collect opinion based data using available, well-known tools - but use those tools creatively! Written surveys of both mentors and mentees should be supplemented by focus group sessions with both constituencies. Focus group sessions should combine both structured and unstructured components. The structured portion should be carefully constructed to elicit comparable data on all key aspects of the mentoring process. The unstructured portion is intended to elicit anecdotal - and frequently unanticipated - examples that will prove valuable in the overall assessment process.

Also, if the organization conducts periodic employee opinion or satisfaction surveys, these create an additional opportunity to integrate questions regarding the mentoring process and further, to correlate overall employee satisfaction with their participation
in mentoring. Keep in mind that mentees function within a system where many variables can and do influence the performance measures discussed above. Among these are:

o the mentee's pre-existing educational attainment,
potential and motivation
o the mentee's tenure, gender, age, and other personal
o the availability of internal and external education and
training opportunities
o the culture of the organization and the degree to which
that culture supports and nurtures learning, growth
and development
o the excellence of the organization's business and
operating processes, including knowledge management
o the extent to which opportunities exist within the
organization to apply the competencies developed
o the organization's reward and recognition practices.

During the assessment process it is important to keep in mind that any of these factors may influence the outcomes observed, and that it will often be difficult to attribute performance, or lack of it, to any one specific cause, including the mentoring process.

All is not lost. However, there are some suggestions that will help, in part at least, to allow attribution to the mentoring process itself and to variables within it. In evaluating the data, look for variations in results:

o between those involved in mentoring and those not involved
o between people assigned to different mentors or from different parts of the organization
o or influenced by other variables described above.

And remember - the ultimate reason for evaluating the mentoring process is to create a foundation for its continuous improvement. Take action on the opportunities that the assessment has identified.

Sept. '97 News for a Change | Email Editor
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