Tag Archives: Mentor

How Do You Get New Employees Up to Speed? Seven Thoughts

Situation: A company has a new set of employees coming up to speed, but this is happening slowly. The work environment is semi-skilled, with learning curves for new office employees and apprentices. How do you get new employees up to speed?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Provide a competitive level of compensation to journeymen and higher level office employees. Make these levels of skill to which office employees and apprentices aspire.
  • Develop a mentor program. Provide chits (company currency) to both the mentor and the mentee for learning each new processes. Make awarding these chits a big deal. For example, the mentor and mentee collect their chits from the CEO who then takes them down to the treasurer to collect on the chits.
  • As appropriate, create a team learning environment. Game theory has demonstrated that both basic and more advanced skills can be successfully taught in a team game environment where there is both competition and rewards for attainment.
  • Set up a system where successful training is demonstrated bench performance.
  • Establish Operator 1, 2 and 3 levels to qualify for graduated levels of jobs or responsibilities. This creates a career track and an incentive to go for the next level. Celebrate employees as they move from level to level.
  • Company celebrations are important. Celebrate birthdays, tenure anniversaries, skill level attainment, career track attainment, and so on at monthly meetings or events.
  • Hire slow/fire fast. Give new employees a fair shake, but if their mentor doesn’t see promise in them, let them go.

How Do You Integrate a New Team Into Your Culture? Six Ideas

Situation: A West Coast company has recently acquired an East Coast company. The two companies serve similar customers with different but complimentary services. The acquired team has a history and mode of operating. The CEO seeks advice on how much they should require the new team to operate as they do at the home office. How do you integrate a new team into your culture?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Have patience. The transition and transfer of culture will take time. Your priority is for both offices to operate smoothly and profitably. Business practices differ by geography to suit their regional cultures. The remote office need not function just like the home office.
  • If you want a manager from your home office in the new office, take care who you select. Since you have history with the new company and office, select a manager who already has a good relationship with key senior managers in the new office. This will ease the transition, and will keep you updated on what is happening there.
  • Organize a dinner with your new manager and the senior managers in the new office. At dinner you will want to communicate your expectations and accelerate the transition.
  • Involve the senior managers from the new office in mentoring the new manager. This will give them an important role and will show respect for their knowledge and expertise.
  • Do all that you can to reinforce the link between the offices – in a constructive way.
  • Set benchmarks and plans of action, and manage to these.

How are You Planning for Baby Boomer Retirements? Six Considerations

Situation: A company has a number of key employees who are nearing retirement. These employees possess software skills and company knowledge which will be difficult to replace. How are you planning for baby boomer retirements, and what advice would you have for this company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Following the loss of investment value after the 2008 market crash, Baby Boomers may retire very differently from their parents. Many don’t have the savings to support themselves during retirement and may well work 10 years later than their parents did.
  • Brute economics will force Boomers to continue to work. However, Boomers may want to work their own hours and on their own terms as they age. The focus may switch to part-time jobs just to maintain cash flow.
  • One solution is to offer more flexible working arrangements that allow individuals to keep working but with more freedom to work as they wish.
  • To replace in-house talent, develop mentor and apprentice programs now to pass your knowledge base on to younger workers.
  • The Internet has significantly changed the picture. People considering retirement may relocate to less expensive regions but virtual employment or virtual office solutions can keep them working.
  • Rising health insurance costs and questions about the viability of Medicare under the Affordable Care Act are concerns for Baby Boomers. This is another factor that may keep them working.

How Do You Develop Leaders and Managers? Five Factors

A company has focused on developing future leaders and managers. They do this both to increase their managerial and leadership bench strength and to boost employee retention. What has worked for you in developing managers and leaders?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Trying to make a leader doesn’t work. Leadership is a trait, not a skill. Leaders can arise from anywhere within the organization. An effective CEO recognizes this and works with both the leaders and the managers, whatever their position.
  • The Gallup Organization found that exceptional managers and exceptional leaders are not often the same people. Usually, the best managers are people who excel at bringing out the best in their employees, but may not be either visionary or strategic thinkers. Leaders, on the other hand are those to whom others look to for guidance and direction. Good leaders know how to identify and delegate to good managers.
  • Identify and develop strengths within your people; don’t try to fix weaknesses.
    • Gallup found that talented people have identified and developed their strengths. Instead of fixing weaknesses they find ways to work around weaknesses so that they are not harmed by them.
  • Use informal mentoring. Assign mentors to employees, and include cross-departmental mentor assignment to extend skills development, as well as managerial and leadership development.
    • Ask mentors to report progress to the CEO on occasional basis.
  • As you develop your talent pipeline, track the number of employees added to the pipeline per year as a key company metric. As an additional metric, look at the number of individuals in your pipeline compared with the number that you believe you need to fill future needs.

What Are Best Practices Hiring Out of College? Four Thoughts

Situation: A Silicon Valley company finds it difficult to find good candidates locally, and also to attract qualified distant candidates to the Bay Area. They want to explore hiring talented individuals out of local colleges and developing them within the company. What are best practices hiring right out of college?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Hiring out of college or graduate school is a good way to find long-term hires who can grow into positions. It is less useful if your need is for experienced and tenured individuals who can immediately get up to speed in a position of significant responsibility.
  • As in any hiring situation, you should review your hiring process before you start to hire. Many companies hire locally based on who applies or who’s a friend of a friend, rather than making an effort to recruit the best candidates.
    • What is your infrastructure? Do you have a system for identifying candidates who best fit your culture and needs? Do you have personnel who can mentor a new college hire, or are you willing to devote significant time to this?
    • An alternative is to hire consultants to develop a recruiting process or to mentor the new hire in specific areas of development during their first year or two on the job.
  • One CEO sponsors an annual competition at Santa Clara University for papers in his company’s field. This has won him considerable support at the school, and gives him access to promising students, several of whom he has hired. An advantage of this program is that the company gets to know the individuals and the quality of their work before making a commitment to offer them either an internship or a full-time position.
  • Be cautious using candidate assessment tools with college hires. An individual’s profile may shift significantly once they start working because there is a significant shift in priorities once an individual leaves student life.

How Do You Effectively Mentor Younger Workers? Five Suggestions

Situation: Most CEOs manage multi-generational staffs. While there are differences between baby-boomers and younger generations, it remains important to give younger workers meaningful guidance. What have you done to successfully mentor younger workers? If you are one of the younger workers, how have you been effectively mentored at work?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Many have noted that, compared with baby-boomers, younger workers have higher levels of self-confidence. This enables them to be more accepting of constructive criticism and guidance. One company establishes individualized performance metrics to help younger employees monitor their progress. This helps them to chart and see their progress. Along the way, managers meet with them frequently to answer their questions about company processes and the rationale behind them.
  • In some cases, CEOs have found some younger workers have a tendency to short from the hip. They mentored them to communicate more thoughtfully and carefully using a team approach because they found younger workers to be more team-oriented than older workers.
  • Many forward thinking companies involve individuals from all levels of the organization in their planning processes. This addresses the desire of younger staff members to be included in high level decisions. Younger workers prefer this to being told to wait until they have more experience.
  • To help younger employees grow, one company breaks down job tiers into more levels or sub-levels, and offers incentives for reaching the next level of skills more rapidly. They also reset expectations more frequently.
  • Particularly in Silicon Valley many younger employees are swimming in debt. Some purchased houses on adjustable-rate interest-only loans and other creative financing solutions. As interest rates rise some will encounter difficulties. In anticipation of this, one company brings in external resources to offer counseling in personal finance. Some of the local financial services companies offer this as a benefit to company’s employees at no cost to the company.

Key Words: Multi-generational, Baby-boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennial, Echo-boomer, Mentor, Coach, Self-confidence, Processes, Communication, Team approach, Involvement, Listening, Financial counseling, Patience

How do you Manage a Multi-generational Staff? Nine Suggestions

Situation:  Employee pools are now multi-generational, with Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Echo-Boomers. Each group may have different expectations for work environments and careers. How do you connect with different generations? How have you set up mentoring programs?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • People may be of different generations, but they are still individuals. Ask what drives or motivates them, and what they would consider an ideal reward for hard work.
  • Some companies offer a sabbatical after several years of employment – the opportunity to work on hobbies, go on an adventure or use the time as they wish. This attracts employees and encourages retention.
  • Some employees don’t seek promotion but are good contributors. They may prefer an extra week of vacation over a promotion.
  • One company gives employees budgets to spruce up their work space – allowing them some control over their work environment.
  • What are good tips on working with younger employees?
    • Coach them to communicate thoughtfully and carefully – instead of shooting from the hip without considering impact or consequences. Younger managers may find that they need more patience communicating expectations to older staff.
    • Establish individualized performance metrics and enable them to monitor progress on their computers.
    • Bring them into the process; don’t tell them to wait. Let them start as an observer. Listen when they have questions or suggestions. Ask their opinion.
    • Break down job tiers into additional levels with more achievement incentives. Allow them to reset expectations frequently.

Key Words: Multi-generational, Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Echo-Boomer, Expectations, Environment, Career, Mentor, Motivation, Reward, Sabbatical, Incentive, Communication, Performance, Expectations                                  

Developing Leaders within the Ranks: Four Approaches

Situation: As they have grown, the Company has used Bay Area talent to seed new locations around the country. Leadership is now short at headquarters. What have others done to fill leadership gaps?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Develop a formal Leadership Development Program.
    • Identify the top leadership candidates with the company – the top 10%.
    • Identify their individual goals and determine whether these are consistent with company values.
    • Clearly communicate the roles and expectations that you have for future company leaders – both the upsides and the sacrifices that you anticipate that they will have to make.
    • Team the leadership candidates 1/1 with mentors to guide them.
    • Consider an “internal” Board of Directors for developing leaders. Members are considered advisors to the true Board of Directors, understand company strategy, are coached on company values, and are involved in an advisory capacity in key company decisions.
    • Consider a leadership “boot camp” program to groom potential leaders and weed out those who like the idea of leadership more than the reality.
    • From the standpoint of a very hierarchical company, the following items are involved:
      • Time
      • Talent
      • Defining the traits for key positions
      • Identifying candidates who appear to possess these traits
      • Assigning leadership roles to these individuals in executing the annual strategic plan – with senior managers mentoring leaders-in-training
      • Include training and development in professional development plans
      • Investigate employee assessment tools, for example the Myers-Briggs tools.

Key Words: Leadership, Development, Goals, Values, Roles, Expectations, Mentor