When a company is looking for ways to improve talent retention and strengthen its workforce, it seeks out Management Mentors, a company based outside of Boston that’s been dedicated to corporate mentoring best practices for over 20 years. In fact, CitiGroup, The New York Times, FedEx, TJ Maxx and Enterprise are only a few of the names that have benefitted from the services originally developed by founder Rene Petrin.

As CampusTap explores the value of leadership development and employee engagement, we looked to Petrin to share a few insights on his mentoring philosophies.

CampusTap: What’s your background in HR and mentoring? Why did you start Management Mentoring?

Rene Petrin: I was in HR healthcare for about 11 years, and what I liked most of all were employee relations issues and solving problems. I went back and got my master’s in degree in psychology, and I really wanted to start my own company.

I found that often people weren’t tapping into the wealth of their employees — one thing I felt I was very good at. I figured that was important to me in my career as a mentor, and so I decided that was what I wanted to focus in on and it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to transform people’s lives.

CT: Have you ever had a mentor? How has that influenced your career?

RP: There was a man who came to the hospital I was working at — he was about two years older than me and had just graduated college. We became business friends, and over the course of time I realized he was mentoring me. He came in one day and said, “There’s an HR opening, I suggest you take the job.” I was caught off guard — I wasn’t looking at a career in HR. I hadn’t even thought about it, but that changed my mind because once I took that position, everything else fell into focus.

That’s how I got to understanding my desire for helping other people and the need for mentoring. I saw what it did to me and wanted to put it on the market to be able to enhance organizations. I wouldn’t have had the career that I have without that experience.

CT: How is mentoring particularly impactful in the corporate workplace?

RP: Employees are a company’s biggest asset. They invest a lot of money in hiring people, and if they don’t take care of them they lose that asset. Every employee comes to the organization with much more than the company wants — different backgrounds, experiences and wisdom. People don’t really tap into that very much because they’re there for a job and that’s it, so you miss out on a lot of opportunity.

What I find mentoring can do, for example, is break down the barrier for silo mentalities and create more loyalty. Employees see the organization invested in them by giving them a mentor whose whole purpose is to be there to help. It impacts longevity and it impacts quality because it is transformational.

The coaching approach is about building a skill set, mentoring is about the transformational relationship.

CT: Why is important to invest in employees career development and growth?

RP: If you are trying to build a diverse organization, mentoring is one of the most important things you can do. The impact is not just on mentees but on mentors. What happens to mentors is that they develop greater skills in terms of facilitating somebody else’s development, listening better and they can transfer that on so it’s mutually beneficial. Mentees become mentors, mentors will continue to mentor — you build a mentoring culture.

CT: What’s the best method for matching mentors and mentees?

RP: There is a methodology — people often think mentees should seek out mentors, but I find mentees don’t always know what they need. Mentees will select the most powerful person, as opposed to what’s most appropriate for them, so I find using an algorithm for matchmaking is very effective.

We look at personality characteristics, the areas of development the mentees are looking for and the mentors are willing to give, and the role mentees want the mentor to play in the relationship as well as the role the mentor wants to play. Using those components, we have a very high success rate in terms of matching.

CT: How do you define a good leader or mentor? How can someone be a good mentee?

RP: A good mentor is someone who doesn’t have a big ego, someone who is engaging, open-minded with the mentee, is interested in that person and where they want to go and facilitates conversation and development; it is not someone who dictates.

A mentee should have a sense of what they have a mentor for and be open to constructive criticism. They have to be looking at the mentor not as someone to take them someplace else, but someone who’s going to be a partner in their development. They also have to be people that keep confidences because that’s where their sharing information that should not go elsewhere, so that’s a big piece of it. They have to meet on a regular basis and prepare for their meetings.

CT: What is the first step to implementing a mentoring program?

RP: The first step is to establish a strategic business objective — why are we doing this, why are you here? Because you want to develop a specific group of employees? Is it to promote the diversity of your organization? Is it to be a part of a talent development program? Besides that, you need to have a process that’s transparent, defined roles, a program manager and ongoing support, but you have to have a strategic business placement first.

CT: What would you say to a business considering a formal mentoring program?

RP: Look at the research. You will find that mentoring is something people are doing more and more of because they see the value of that. The beauty of it is that it’s very cost effective, it’s not labor intensive and it works.

My philosophy has always been mentoring is about having a transformational relationship. Everything you do in designing and implementing a mentoring program should have one purpose, and that’s to enhance building that relationship.

If you’re interested in learning more about opportunities to facilitate mentor relationships at your institution, feel free to explore CampusTap’s private career networking platform.


Image courtesy Rene Petrin