In Focus: Mentoring for Retention

By  Debbie Hauss — July 27, 2006

With 5,500 employees in its corporate office, The Home Depot was facing a monumental task of growing its newly established mentoring program. After a year of a manual, pencil-and-paper method of matching employees with mentors, the company started to research mentoring software.

We knew the program was growing substantially and we felt the paper-and-pencil method would kill us, says Layne Thome, director of associate services, The Home Depot. By year two the program grew more than two-fold, from 38 pairs to 93 mentor pairs. It was a very cumbersome and lengthy process trying to match people through paper questionnaires. There was no good way to quantify and sort participants.

Thome reviewed several mentoring software choices and selected Mentor Scout, which worked with The Home Depot to create a customized program. Our program s the oversight of a Home Depot Mentoring Council, Thome explains. Mentor Scout is designed as a self-matching system but we wanted that program element removed because we wanted our Mentoring Council to match participants.

The out-of-the-box Mentor Scout program was designed for self-service by employees. Each employee logs in to an account and completes an profile. The program finds a match then sends a request to the potential mentor, who accepts or rejects the request. Home Depots customized system allows the employee to select up to three potential mentors, then members of the Mentoring Council makes the final choices. The system automatically sends out a message to the Mentoring Council.

The system also was customized to The Home Depots internally created leadership criteria to customize the profiles to match leadership potential, notes Thome.

The Home Depot initiated the program in its corporate office. We are rolling it out in phases to meet the needs of the individuals participating, explains Thome. We want to make sure, based on each functional area, that the program hits the mark for them. Were doing constant evaluation on how well the program is meeting the employees needs within the company.

Mentor Scout was first offered to The Home Depot employees as a volunteer program in the human resources department, then operations and logistics. Once the program is in full swing in the corporate office it may be expanded to store employees.

To date the program has hit a home run in the corporate office. People rate the program very high they feel better about the company and their positions, says Thome. Weve had very positive feedback.

Thome offers the following advice to companies considering mentoring software: Really think about your target audience and what they are trying to achieve: assimilation into the company, promotion opportunities or leadership training, for example. And most importantly make sure you have good, committed mentors who will support the development of their mentees.

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