As companies engage with corporate citizenship, internal policies and programs present an excellent opportunity to address important focus areas such as employee retention. Legg Mason, a global asset management firm, supports employee retention through the Global Mentor Program, an internal mentorship initiative. By matching high-performing employees with experienced members in leadership roles, the program aims to expand the networking skills, leadership training, and company exposure of promising staff members. Legg Mason views the Global Mentor Program as a critical investment in leadership and talent development, having successfully mentored approximately 140 employees since the program’s inception.
“One of the reasons our Global Mentorship program is so successful is because it engages directly with our executive leadership,” said Kristin Kosmides, Head, Corporate Citizenship. “Our Executive Committee has been involved in the selection of the mentees since 2011. They come to their decision by relying on a comprehensive list, provided by their direct report that identifies the employees that have displayed high performance in critical roles. We also encourage the executive members to discuss the selection process with those whom directly report to them to ensure there are no additional names to consider.”
In 2012, the program was enhanced to include a nomination process, handled by the heads of each department. To ensure equity, each executive member has a preset number of mentee positions they can fill.
In addition to gaining executive buy-in, Legg Mason works to ensure the diversity of the Global Mentor Program by leveraging their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). “We specifically open up spots for each of our ERGs“, said Jennifer Whitman, Head, Corporate Insurance, and Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council Steering Committee Member. Jennifer has been involved with the program in a leadership role since its inception. “The chair of the ERG is responsible for working with its steering committee to review the nominations from the ERG’s membership constituency. By incorporating the ERGs, we give people a chance to nominate themselves. This has been especially helpful for employees who come from departments where there might be more competition for the mentee slots than others.”
In order to participate in the program, potential mentees must meet the following criteria:
- Minimum of two year tenure with Legg Mason.
- Absence of performance issues Identified as someone who is valued for long term growth.
- Has not been through the mentoring program already.
- Fully committed to the program and would be able to attend all scheduled meetings.
- Meets the suggested or previously exhibited nominee criteria:
- Demonstrates interest in continuous learning of new skills and/or honing current ones
- Embraces change and quickly adapts to new situations
- Demonstrates innovation and motivation
- Has a personal agenda for growth and a demonstrated willingness to learn about self, others, and ideas
- Demonstrates and upholds the ethics and values of Legg Mason
- Consistently meets and/or exceeds expectations in Legg Mason's core values: Passion for Results, Commitment to Excellence, Integrity, Collaboration, and Empowerment
- Brings an aspect of diversity to the program.
- Must be based in the United States, Canada, or Europe.
While finding the resources to maintain the program—both human and financial—are a continual challenge, Whitman points to the limited number of mentee spots as one of the initiative’s largest obstacles. “With limited space, electing the small number of mentees amongst such qualified candidates can be especially challenging,” she said. “To address this, we utilize a variety of communication methods to both raise awareness about the opportunity and to give staff members ample time to submit mentee nominations.”
Once the mentees are selected, the process of matching the successful candidates with mentors begins. In 2011, Legg Mason began providing mentees with a catalog in order to pick their mentor. The company found that giving the selected mentees more involvement and control in their mentor matching process has yielded more successful mentor/mentee matches than in previous years, when matches were made by Human Resources.
“The mentor catalogue provides key information such as years of experience in industry, likes/dislikes, interests outside of work, mentor’s location, mentor’s preference in mentee’s location, and more,” said Whitman. “Importantly, mentor’s names are not provided to the mentee in this initial phase.”
The mentees have approximately two weeks to review the catalog and make their primary and alternate mentor selections. The matches are done on a first-come, first-serve basis. In 2012-2013, the process resulted in 22 pairs of mentees/mentors.
To encourage interaction, the Global Mentor Program features three structured meetings a year – a kick off meeting, mid-year update, and a closing session – which feature a wide range of activities, including panel discussions and guest speakers, networking exercises, certificate and award celebration, and more. Monthly meetings, optional training modules, and an optional “Day of Caring” volunteerism activity also foster open communication between mentor and mentee.
Mentees and mentors complete feedback surveys after each formal session, which Legg Mason uses to adjust and improve the program going forward. These surveys give organizers a sense of what participants liked and disliked what they would keep doing or stop, and any recommendations for the future.
Ultimately, internal initiatives like Legg Mason’s Global Mentorship Program can help companies avoid the negative outcomes (financial impact, loss of expertise, etc.) that results with the loss of a staff member. Furthermore, mentorship programs help groom potential future leaders. Overall, the Global Mentor Program supports Legg Mason’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion and helps the firm express its values of professional development and employee retention.