Last week, this newsletter featured an article on IBM’s approach to mentoring and how it’s been applied to the organization’s workforce challenges. This week, we’ll look at how the company has expanded the concept — dubbing the new iteration “intelligent mentoring” — and integrated it into the company’s broader talent strategies.
Intelligent mentoring encompasses three categories:
1. Knowledge transfer: This involves highly specialized employees transferring niche skills and knowledge throughout the workforce.
2. Socialization: This is intended to help new IBM employees adjust to the corporate environment.
3. Career guidance: This is the more traditional, long-term mentoring program that involves coaching and succession planning.
One area in which intelligent mentoring has been applied is in global integration, said Sheila Forte-Trammell, a learning consultant and co-author of Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge, and Relationships.
“With regard to integration, we’re looking at connecting every person and every process, regardless of geography, time differences and cultural differences,” she said. “That integration starts with two people, and then we extend that practice across the business. We can’t operate in an individual space anymore.”
One example of how intelligent mentoring has been used to facilitate global integration is the pairing of an established software group in the United States with an “emerging” sales support team in China. A mentoring program was developed across the two organizations with a focus on product education.
Although initially there were challenges to overcome — such as cultural and language barriers, time differences and getting participants engaged in the program — the mentoring initiative produced impressive results in a fairly short amount of time. Already, the Chinese team has increased its self-sufficiency fourfold and also won a sales contract as a result of the mentoring relationship, Forte-Trammell said.
Intelligent mentoring also is one of IBM’s weapons in the talent war. Forte-Trammell sees this as a means for attracting and retaining the best and brightest individuals entering the world of work.
“As we bring Gen Xers and Yers into the business, there’s a strong need to establish right away that they made the right decision to come to IBM,” she said. “Especially now, employees want to have line of sight into how they progress. Immediately, we tap mentors, not just to help socialize new hires into IBM, but also to help them understand the possibilities, the tools and the resources we have.
“Also, there’s the whole notion of creating value through meaning and purpose. When employees see the meaning and purpose in what you’re doing, you get their full support and attention.”