Mentoring Do’s and Don’ts (VIDEO)

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Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, who leads KPMG’s diversity and corporate social-responsibility strategy, believes that if you poll successful people, they will tell you that, at some point in their careers, they were impacted by a mentor.

“Organizations must be relentlessly committed to sustaining employee engagement by providing opportunities,” Hannan told a DiversityInc audience of more than 200 federal-agency and corporate leaders in Washington, D.C., on March 10.

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Hannan said her mentoring equation is fairly simple: E + A = I + R

In other words, engagement and accountability equals impact and results. “It’s not about program dollars. It’s about engagement and accountability,” Hannan said.

At KPMG, No. 15 on The 2010 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity® list, mentoring “is truly the cornerstone of the organizational culture,” she said.

“We have mentoring programs for interns before they even become an employee, so when they come in the door, they understand what is expected,” she explained. “The other element of our strategy is that KPMG is a great place to build a career for our current employees. And the third layer is what we are doing from the alumni standpoint.”

Hannan offered these tips on how to set up a successful mentoring program:

Leadership Commitment: Leadership should develop an integrated strategy to make everyone accountable for contributing to and having an impact on employee engagement, she said.

“I think it’s critical that people within the organization see that the commitment is at every level of leadership,” Hannan said. “It’s not good enough to just have the top of the house talk about this. Don’t underestimate the value of leadership visibility. It has to be understood by all professionals that this is something that every layer of leadership understands.”

The Benefits of Formal Mentoring: Informal mentoring programs allow relationships to develop casually, she said. That appeals to people who want to feel less restricted. But formal programs are critical to set out what the expectations are. “That which gets measured, gets done,” Hannan said.

She recommends organizations start with a very comprehensive communication strategy that outlines the advantages to the mentor and mentees. “We have to be careful not to over-engineer formal relationships,” she said. “Don’t get bogged down in the mechanics. Create a framework that encourages and facilitates relationship building and trust.”

Encourage Cross-Cultural Mentoring: Hannan said there are many benefits to being mentored in one’s career by someone who is completely different from you. “We encourage all types of mentoring relationships,” she said. “We require our leaders to mentor people like them and unlike them. Diversity is not about being different. It’s about being dynamic … and understanding the broader perspectives out there.”

Communication Is Key: Hannan said an organization cannot over-communicate the success of its mentoring programs because people want to be associated with success. “Once you get tired of repeating yourself, people are just starting to listen and get it, so it’s important to have continuous communication,” she said. “You can’t do enough to communicate the success of the program and recognize and reward the right types of behavior. When you highlight the right behaviors, they understand what your expectations are.”

Finding the Right Mentors: Hannan said an organization should emphasize the importance of management serving as mentors. “We don’t force anyone into mentoring roles but we offer a couple of ways for our people to identify a mentor,” she said. For example, consider existing relationships employees may have with more senior leaders in the organization already. Employees should also feel free to speak to human resources, she said.

“The folks in our HR organization really help,” she said. “They know people who are good performance-management leaders.”

Key traits of a good mentor include a willingness to share skills, knowledge and expertise, a willingness to take a personal interest in others and a willingness to provide candid feedback. Hannan said it’s important not to exclude people from the mentoring population so it doesn’t seem exclusive to a certain group.

“That has a negative impact on the culture,” she said. 

Peer-to-Peer Mentoring: “Peer-to-peer mentoring relationships are very beneficial,” she said. “They tend to play out much better with the younger population, but we also have employees in more senior roles who have peer mentors as well.”

Provide Training for Both Mentors and Mentees: At KPMG, mentors are coached on how to have a dialogue on goals, both short and long term, with their mentees and to allow mentees to drive the relationship. Mentees also receive training on how to be mentor-ready.

“Sometimes mentors get into the trap of providing answers,” she said. “We encourage our mentors not to give an answer but to help the individual through the decision-making process.”

Measuring the Impact: KPMG uses both soft and hard metrics to define the success of its mentoring program, she said. “The intangible metrics are demonstrated by employees recognizing and appreciating the investment you are making in them,” Hannan said.

More defined metrics include things such as employee surveys, asking employees to measure the mentoring relationships they are currently in and whether they feel the mentoring process has been valuable. KPMG also sets specific goals for mentoring relationships so they can assess and measure whether leaders are engaged in the process.

This information, which helps the firm identify any gaps, is shared with leadership teams across the country as well as the company’s advisory boards and boards of directors, Hannan said.

“Being accountants, we love the numbers,” she said.



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