7 Strategies for Successful Mentoring From Wells Fargo, Pfizer, AT&T, Ernst & Young, Target, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Baxter

January 5, 2014 3:27 pm

By Barbara Frankel

7 Strategies for Successful Mentoring From Wells Fargo, Pfizer, AT&T, Ernst & Young, Target, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Baxter

Talent-development leaders from Pfizer, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Target, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Baxter International analyzed their mentoring best practices, training and metrics at DiversityInc’s recent event. Here are their seven most successful strategies:

No. 1: Prepare Mentors and Mentees Thoroughly

More than 50 percent of the 2013 DiversityInc Top 50 companies insist on cultural-competence training for their mentors, which is very valuable in preventing missteps that can derail a relationship.

What other types of training should you consider? At Wells Fargo (No. 25 in the DiversityInc Top 50), the company’s Women’s Team Member Network offers speed-mentoring sessions to get participants educated on what mentoring is and what is required of a mentor, a coach and a sponsor. “We encourage them to come to us if they need help,” says Leslie Ridgley, president, Wells Fargo Women’s Team Member Network.

Linda Hartman-Reehl, Director of Inclusion & Diversity at Baxter Healthcare, urges companies to address concerns about leaders’ time commitments before the mentoring relationship starts. Hartman-Reehl notes that Baxter had trouble getting senior leaders to commit to being mentors. “People wanted to be involved but the formal program had time commitments that concerned them. So I held coffee sessions to let them know what we needed and why we need it—I did a whole presentation of how it will impact the company. It really created a lot of support going forward,” she says.

Wells Fargo asks leaders to assess why they are taking on mentoring and mentee roles, according to Atul Kamra, Head of Advice at Wells Fargo Advisors. “What are you getting out of it? What are your obligations? How do you teach the rest of the organization? How do you play it back and pay it forward?”

Beth McCormick, Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion at Pfizer (No. 28), notes that mentors need to set limits on how many mentees they will accept. If you have a stellar profile (and are from an underrepresented group), you may get too many requests.  “Some people are getting inundated with requests, but if you have the candid conversation that says you are at capacity, people do tend to understand,” she says.

At Target (No. 20), which will be honored as DiversityInc’s Top Company for Mentoring at our Oct. 16 Special Awards, mentors receive training and a check-in after three months to assess success. After the relationships end at 12 months, the process and the relationship itself is assessed.

No. 2: Maximize Use of Resource Groups

Hartman-Reehl says Baxter’s women’s resource group created a SharePoint site called Spark, in which people interested in being mentors and mentees find each other. The resource group has more than 900 members “and the reports back are that it’s working. It’s helped individuals know where they can go to find one or even two mentors to help them along their path,” she says.

At Pfizer, resource groups use the Mentor Match tool, available to all employees, to note if they are affiliated with a resource group and whether they want a cross-cultural mentoring experience.

AT&T (No. 13) has emphasized mentoring to its resource-group members and is having great success with mentoring circles. Senior executives get engaged with the resource groups by leading these circles. “I’ve found it to be even more beneficial than one-on-one mentoring. You take the time to learn from each other and share valuable tools,” says Catalina Bajenaru, Executive Director, Human Resources. She encourages flexibility. “I found that it’s important to give freedom to these employee-resource groups to set up a mentoring platform that fits their needs and their goals,” she says.

No. 3: Differentiate Mentoring From Sponsorship (Political Advocacy)

Ernst & Young (No. 4) has had consistent internal education about the difference between mentoring and sponsorship. Recently, the firm held a webcast focusing on sponsorship, showcasing both internal leaders and external experts.

Pfizer recently launched an 18-month sponsorship pilot with about 31 participants. There are four cohorts—one each for Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women. Each cohort includes a member of the executive leadership team (direct reports to the CEO). “It’s around getting paired specifically with a mentor and it’s about having business-development opportunities as well,” says McCormick. She notes, “You cannot assign sponsorship. Sponsorship has to be earned but it’s earned through access and exposure to people in positions of power understanding the quality of the work.”

Kim Strong, Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion at Target, notes that sponsorship starts at the manager level and senior leaders include it as part of their talent-development planning.

No. 4: Use Flexible Technology

Many companies use computer-matching programs; the best programs allow the companies the flexibility to adjust for cross-cultural and corporate factors. At AT&T, where the resource groups are very involved with mentoring, “they have to use it in the way that meets their needs and there has to be some degree of freedom,” says Bajenaru.

Consider virtual mentoring as well, advises Damion Jones, Global Diversity Analyst, Monsanto (No. 42). “Our virtual mentoring is online. You log in, set up your profile and then reach out to people as you need them. It gives opportunity for people to connect with people in other parts of the world versus just their own limited networks.” Monsanto will be honored as DiversityInc’s Top Company for Global Cultural Competence at our Oct. 16 Special Awards.

No. 5: Have Multiple Mentors

Wells Fargo’s Ridgley advises network members to have multiple mentors. “Look for situational mentors,” she says. “If you want to learn a part of the business, or learn a skill, find somebody in the organization who models that, go up to them and say, ‘Do you mind if I put time on your calendar?’” You don’t have to commit to a long-term relationship because maybe it’s not somebody you want to be with on a monthly basis for a whole year.”

No. 6: Consider Reverse Mentoring

At Wells Fargo, “on the diversity side, we realized that it was actually some of our most senior leaders who needed to be mentored rather than be mentors themselves,” says Kamra. All executive-committee members were asked to be a mentor and take on a mentee role. Mentors were assigned to the executives based on blind spots, biases and prejudices. “My mentor is a lesbian with two children and I have learned more from her about life than I have in a lot of other experiences,” says Kamra.

No. 7: Use the right metrics to evaluate

If you are a senior leader at Pfizer, there is an expectation that you will have mentees, McCormick says. In setting goals for 2013, each division was given responsibility for increasing the percentage of managers who have mentees.

“If you clearly define the role and give it some parameters around a timeframe and give people some material to work with, even if the ‘chemistry’ isn’t there, they are still achievement-oriented people and they can work toward providing value to the mentees,” says McCormick.

Keith Hines, Director of Supplier Diversity at PricewaterhouseCoopers (No. 2), notes that he worked in HR years ago before moving to procurement. “We had a mentor program with a well-defined one-page scorecard. On the front it had expectations—what the mentee was to expect and what the mentor was to provide. On the back was a box that was checked each quarter that you met with this person, and three bullet points that were discussed, and what were the next steps. It was not complicated; very simple. You had to submit it at the end of the year,” he says.

At Wells, Ridgley says network members develop individual mentoring plans so at the start of a mentoring relationship, the mentee is asked to provide two or three goals he or she wants to achieve from the relationship. Then milestones are put in place.

At Target, Strong says “the secret sauce” is follow-up. “You can have your engagement scores relative to mentoring. You can look at the retention matrix. But it’s really about the follow-up. It is totally embarrassing if you are in a talent-planning meeting at our company and you’re asked who is the person’s mentor and you can’t say. That’s worse than missing sales.”