So what does online dating have to do with a mentoring program? Well, we adopted some of the concepts of online dating and applied them to our mentoring program, ING Mentoring Advantage. The mentoring program is voluntary—for both mentors and mentees.
It starts with the profiles. Employees create their profiles, just like with online dating, except they are answering questions about their career interests. For example, employees answer questions like: what are you looking for in a mentor, what competencies are you looking to develop, what are your career goals, and describe your ideal mentor. Mentors complete a similar application that describes their experience, knowledge and skills they would like to share with a mentee. Next, the screening process begins.
The ING Mentoring Advantage team, composed of our HR advisors, manages the matching process. They carefully screen both mentors and mentees to ensure the matches will be productive and effective. Our research has shown that when employees choose their own mentors, they typically choose people they already know and feel comfortable engaging. We believe that making matches based on mentee needs and mentor strengths better supports employee development.
Finally, there’s the meet. We introduce the mentees to their mentors through an e-mail communication. Then, it’s up to them to establish the relationship. We do ask that they formally commit to the relationship for one year.
To support all of our employees, we developed mentoring tools and resources to promote informal mentoring relationships as well. All of the information is located on our intranet site or available through our online learning center. The mentoring program kicks off annually each summer. We’re currently in our fourth year, and nearly 500 employees participated in the program last year. For a financial services company, I think we’re pretty successful match makers.
If you think this is interesting, some parts of ING outside the U.S. are now conducting “speed talent sessions” which is a spin off on speed dating. In short, managers meet a variety of talented people for five minutes each with the hopes that someday they may have a job opportunity. You never know where we will get our next idea!