‘Teach me what you know about HR’

HR associations across Canada embracing mentoring in all its forms
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/18/2013

Mentorship programs are popping up at more and more HR associations across Canada. While they all are backed by a desire to support members’ professional development, there are some differences from coast to coast. Here we take a look at a few of the programs on offer.

British Columbia

The mentorship program at the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA) began in 2009 with 370 participants. By 2012, that number had nearly doubled to 722, according to Christian Codrington, senior manager of operations at the Vancouver-based association, which has 5,674 members.

“Clearly, there’s a desire both on the protegé and mentor’s part. Protegés are looking for guidance to help manage work issues and professional growth issues as well,” he says. “And many mentors talk about how much they learned from having the protégé, whether it’s different perspectives or using the cloud and social media in a different way.”

Participants fill out an intake questionnaire that covers skills development, areas of interest and geographic location to find out exactly what type of relationship they are interested in, says Codrington.

Association staff and volunteers then go through all of the applications to make the matches.

“We do a very high-touch version of the matching,” he says. “You can appreciate, if you’re doing that manually, it can take some effort to review people’s applications, look at what they’re asking for and see where their needs are.”

Once the matches are made, it is the protegé who directs the learning by setting priorities and goals for the mentoring relationship, says Codrington.

“Any learner has a more vested view in the outcome when they are directing the learning. When the protegé is leading that, they will work harder to achieve the goals that are set up and undertake the development activities that are suggested by the mentor.”

Participants are expected to commit a minimum of two to four hours per month of interaction with their partner. They can earn one Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) recertification point per hour, up to a maximum of 20 points.

Manitoba

Launched in 2011, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM)’s mentorship program was put on hold after only one year due to financial difficulties and restructuring of the association. But it has been resurrected and was officially relaunched in April this year, says Ron Gauthier, executive director of the 1,500-member association based in Winnipeg.

“We’ve gotten feedback from membership and there is a significant amount of interest, which is one of the reasons why we brought it back,” he says. “It makes all of the HR professionals better HR professionals and we see that as a big win.”

The first time around, the association had difficulty finding enough mentors for the program, so this time it is allowing participants to be both protegés and mentors, says Gauthier.

HRMAM is working with software company TalentC to make the matches for the program. Participants are matched on a variety of factors including background, expertise, goals, expectations and geography.

The mentors receive initial training from TalentC on mentorship and what makes a good mentor, says Gauthier.

HRMAM has also decided to charge protegés a $75 registration fee.

“For us, we want a serious commitment from the mentees because we don’t want it to be halfway through and then they stop, so people will be serious about it if they paid their money,” says Gauthier.

Participants are required to spend two to four hours per month interacting with their mentoring partner. The association is in the process of identifying which required professional capabilities (RPCs) participants meet and how many points they would receive, says Gauthier.

Ontario

The Toronto-based Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has mentorship programs that are run at the chapter level. Twenty-three of the association’s 28 chapters offer a mentoring program.

The Toronto chapter’s mentoring program has been in place since 2006. But last year it launched a revamped program when it switched from a paper-based system to online software called Mentor Scout, and it now has more than 500 participants, says Ravinder Sanghera, chair of the Toronto chapter’s mentoring committee. The chapter has a total membership of 6,000.

The software — which HRPA makes available to all chapters — allows for a variety of pairing strategies: protegé picks mentor; mentor picks protegé; or administrator pairs mentors and protegés.

At the Toronto chapter, the administrator does the pairing and mentors and protegés are matched based on location preference, top three areas of development for the protegés and top three areas of expertise for the mentors. Through the software, the chapter is able to identify how many job levels should be between the mentor and the protegé.

“(Previously), senior people were being matched with junior people and a gap was being left, whereas now, the program allows us to identify those senior people, match them with the mid-level and match the mid-level with the junior,” says Sanghera. “So it maximizes our pool of mentors and allows us to really serve that mid-level group of people.”

The program allows mentors — who must have at least five years of direct experience in HR — to identify if they would be willing to mentor up to three people.

The Toronto chapter also provides an online mentoring handbook with helpful tips for participants.

Participants are expected to commit at least one hour per month — and every hour counts for 1.5 CHRP points.

Nova Scotia

Participants in the mentorship program at the Human Resources Association of Nova Scotia (HRANS) are actively involved in choosing their mentor or protegé.

Each September, members participate in a speed mentoring session where they have a few minutes with potential mentorship partners to ask them specific questions. At the end of the evening, the potential mentors and protegés submit the names of their top three partnership choices.

“It just goes so well and some conversations keep going when the bell rings and they’re supposed to be going to the next person, and you can anticipate that that’s the person they are going to write down because they really connected with them,” says Sheila Oyler, executive director of the 1,200-member association, based in Halifax.

The mentorship committee considers the applicant’s top choices when it makes the matches. It also considers other factors including the areas of the RPCs the applicants are interested in; their type and length of experience; their expectations and goals for the relationship; and the industry of the applicants.

The committee also has one-on-one discussions with all of the applicants to determine whether or not they are suitable candidates for the program as well as to help facilitate the matching, says Oyler.

Participants are expected to meet once per month for one to three hours. While they most commonly meet in-person or by phone, some mentors have invited protegés to their workplace for job shadowing or they attend professional development sessions together. And they often create lasting relationships, says Oyler.

“In many cases, they maintain the relationship after the program is done,” she says. “This isn’t just about an eight-month mentor-mentee relationship. That may be the formal part, but it’s really about making longer-term connections which is a benefit for both the mentees and mentors.”

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