Succession planning made easy

Joe Sherren joe@gatewayleadership.com
Published on March 5, 2016

Joe Sherren

©Guardian File Photo

This past week I had breakfast with my friend, Charles Stout - a retired executive from Allstate Insurance, at a restaurant called "Egg N' Joe" in Arizona. Two servers approached our table and one said, "Hi, my name is Cheryl. I am in training and this is my mentor Sam". I am new and in training to become a great server".

What a coincidence. Charles and I were discussing the topic of corporate mentoring programs. Before leaving, I asked to speak with the General Manager where she explained the process of their "Buddy System". She said, "When a new employee is hired, they are immediately paired with a senior employee who becomes responsible for their success".

She continued to explain that becoming a mentor is based on performance and client feedback. Initially, the new server follows the mentor around. The amount of time is based on their past experience and learning speed. Then, the new server is shadowed by the buddy (mentor) to ensure all lessons have been learned and they are representing the Egg N' Joe service culture.

I find many companies invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in talent management recruiting programs - and stop there. They are missing the opportunity to get the best return on their hiring investment.

Mentoring is long-term and creates a fully developed employee by combining theory with on-the-job practice. Mentoring works either as a standalone process or as part of a formal orientation program.

Charles, who was Territorial Claims Manager of Allstate Insurance in the Southwest Region, explained to me how he had once set up a "Buddy System" at Allstate. It worked this way:

• Each claim representative had a "buddy" sales agent. They felt an agent who was versed in claims handling methodologies, paired with a claims employee would provide seamless service for the customer at point of loss.

• Their managers would have a cross-functional relationship with leaders of other departments. These employees, who were often part of the company's "succession plan", found this broadened their knowledge and expedited their readiness to take on higher levels of leadership.

• Moreover, this practice accelerated learning about the company, their products and services. It also created more engaged workers resulting in higher retention of high potential employees.

MacDougall Steel Erectors in Borden, PEI has an official mentoring program where each new employee's progress is monitored. As the new employee completes each task or category and is ready to move up to the next level, it must be signed off by their mentor.

The mentee is issued a card called an "Orientation Training Passport". At the completion of each step, or assignment, the card is punched which creates a record of the progress the employee is making.

Mark Quigley, HSE Manager says "This has reduced the time it takes to get an employee up to speed without the loss in quality that many companies experience when senior employees take the time to help a newer staff member".

A common theme I have found with all companies that have mentoring programs is improved employee satisfaction, increased retention, and enhanced on-boarding programs. This all results in making a company more appealing and creates a process to prepare future leaders. The best part is - it's free!

My question this week is: "Has your organization implemented a formal or informal process to set up new employees and prospective leaders for success"?

Joseph Sherren, international business transformation specialist, can be reached at 902-437-6998, or check his website www.gatewayleadership.com