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Nourish the potential

Mentoring can benefit professionals at all levels particularly in times of change

The success of KnowledgePoint360 depends on adding value by delivering authoritative information and highest-level service to healthcare practitioners and pharma and biotech clients. That added value derives primarily from the exceptional skills and experience of our staff, now numbering over 640 worldwide.

Recruiting, training, supporting, and retaining the best team in the industry is a high priority goal that we pursue in a variety of ways, including, most recently, by establishing a formal mentoring programme.  

Why set up a mentoring initiative?
What is a mentor? We define it as somebody outside their normal line management with whom an individual can discuss their career plans, evaluate options and achievements, and work through challenges.

In other words, a mentor is a suitably qualified person who is willing and able to act as a confidential helper to another person in order to stimulate professional development.

"Having been with the company for many years, I felt I was at a bit of a cross-roads in my writing career. However, having had just two meetings with my mentor has already given me an opportunity to focus on what's important to me, both professionally and personally, review my achievements to date and look at what's possible in the future,"  says Sharon Smalley, principal writer.

"As a result, I feel almost re-energised and I'm looking forward to the many excellent opportunities that I know lie ahead."

We believe that mentoring can benefit professionals at almost any level, and is particularly useful during the early stages of a career or during times of change. A mentor can help their 'mentee' assess needs and establish a development plan, and can evaluate progress and review learnings at regularly scheduled meetings.

"Early feedback suggests that mentees really appreciate having an independent sounding board with whom to discuss various challenges and importantly possible solutions. A mentor compliments the line manager relationship and offers a different perspective on career development to help our colleagues realise their potential," says Chrysta Dick HR manager, KnowledgePoint360.

As a test of concept, one of KnowledgePoint360's largest divisions, ACUMED, piloted a mentoring programme beginning in 2006. Melissa Piper, ACUMED president, led the initial effort and said: "We learnt a great deal from the pilot scheme; most importantly, it reinforced the belief that mentoring was a really valuable way to share knowledge and expertise across functions."

Following this early success and following collaboration and input from our business leaders, a decision was made to roll-out the mentoring scheme company-wide during late 2010 and early 2011. So far, we have established 93 mentor/mentee partnerships across the business in the UK and US.

The programme is available to all employees who wish to participate, beginning after six months with the company. Importantly, all meetings that take place between the mentor and mentee are confidential. It is part of our human resources remit to carry out ad hoc checks to ensure the necessary support and guidance is offered. As part of our scheme, we offer expenses to cover the occasional coffee or lunch to help build informal partnerships between mentors/mentees.

The approach
In order to heighten interest in the programme and encourage applications, posters were displayed at various locations. Mentor and mentee applicants were matched and all parties were then notified. As part of the selection and matching process, we tried to encourage cross-fertilisation by establishing partnerships across different functions/roles within the business.

Shortly after the selection process, mentors attended an interactive workshop and were provided with a 'getting started' toolkit to ensure everybody was clear on the role of a mentor and understood the differences between training and development, coaching, line management responsibilities and mentoring. Key points of guidance stipulate that:
• The mentor–mentee partnership takes place outside the line manager–employee relationship, at the mutual agreement of a mentor and the mentee
• The partnership is career focused on professional or personal development that may be outside the mentee's current area of work
• The partnership is personal, ie, a mentor can provide both professional and personal development according to the mentee's needs  
• The relationship can cross job boundaries
• The relationship should be long term (at least 12 months)
• It is part of the mentee's responsibility to drive the partnership, for example by ensuring that monthly meetings take place.

Early indications are that the mentoring programme benefits all parties. For mentees, the rewards can be far-reaching and include the provision of long-term support, guidance and advice as well as additional training/career development. Mentoring can also influence or challenge an individual's attitude and professional outlook, thereby helping improve results.

Mentors are rewarded by way of gaining satisfaction from helping others and potentially seeing a mentee's career blossom. Mentors also have the opportunity to practise and develop their management skills, as well as increase their self confidence.

What are the rewards for the business itself? The company could expect to benefit from retention of quality staff, enhanced transfer of skills, gains in productivity and performance of individuals, increased on-the-job learning thereby potentially reducing external training costs, and improved communication, commitment and motivation.

Rowena McMenamin, principal writer, said: "Working in a small satellite office rather than the main office means my contact with colleagues and other account teams is limited. Having a mentee in the main office gives me insights into how different teams operate across the business. This can be really helpful in terms of sharing operational best practice and entrepreneurial ideas across accounts."

What next?
Under the current programme, mentors will aim to check-in with human resources after three months to ensure the initial mentoring meeting has taken place and to answer any questions. The success of the scheme will be formally evaluated after nine months and key learnings considered. It is envisaged that these key learnings will then be shared across the group and further training potentially offered to mentors.

"We fully expect that newly-assigned mentors and mentees will, nine months from now, be just as enthusiastic about the benefits of the programme as were those who participated in the pilot," said Jon Bigelow, CEO of KnowledgePoint360.

"We also expect that as a company we will gain further insights into ways in which to support our world-class team and to ensure that working for KnowledgePoint360 is personally rewarding."

10 Top Tips

•    Ensure the scheme has senior management buy in and is led from the top

•    Ensure confidentiality is never compromised for both mentees and mentors and that both parties realise the importance

•    Provide training to mentors to ensure they are comfortable in their role and the differences to line manager/coaching relationship

•    Evaluate success of the scheme and introduce success measures

•    Raise awareness of the scheme through internal communications

•    Take time to match pairs effectively and ensure mentees/mentors understand it is okay if they feel the partnership is not working out

•    Invite applications from both mentees and mentors encouraging both parties to be clear about what they hope to achieve from the scheme

•    Be sensitive to existing informal relationships which might be in place

•    Consider giving mentors a budget to enable them to encourage informal discussions and relationship building

•    Consider running a pilot scheme and evaluate success and key learnings


The Author
KnowledgePoint360 is a global leader in education for healthcare professionals, offering medical communications services, publication support, live educational meetings ranging from international congresses to dinner meetings, strategic consulting, benchmark-based advisory services, exhibit design, e-solutions for communications programs, workflow and compliance solutions to support speaker programmes, and medical education. Through all of these activities, KnowledgePoint360 offers insight, innovation, and integrity in healthcare information.

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1st March 2011


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