|by Kirby D. Payne, CHA - 1998
With the tremendous growth of the lodging industry over the last two
decades, the industry's ability to develop competent management staff has
been severely strained.
The educational facilities that focus on the industry, whether they
are four-year or two-year programs, cannot keep up with the growth rate
and never have been a major contributor of entry level management.
The most significant source of the future leaders are line level employees
or people moving into this industry from others. This means that company
training programs and OJT (on the job training) are really our keys to
developing managers with technical and leadership skills that will contribute
to the success of the organization.
Regardless of the source of the emerging managers, they need some support
and nurturing to be all they can be. Mentoring is one way to do this. Many
of us are familiar with informal mentoring but formal programs can accomplish
Mentor and protege relationships generally occur on an informal basis
in the hotel industry. This is typified by the general manager who takes
a junior manager under his protective wing and grooms him for greater responsibility.
The traditional mentoring relationship is based on an unspoken agreement
and is subject to the availability and good will of the senior manager.
Unlike the traditional mentoring relationship, a structured mentoring
program clearly defines the mentoring relationship by ensuring that the
mentor, protege, and organization all clearly understand what to expect
and what is expected of them. Its goals are the same but its process is
The Aim of Mentoring
Mentoring, in its traditional or structured form, aims to accomplish
the same thing-the pairing of a skilled and experienced senior person (the
mentor) with a less experienced and junior person (the protege) to help
the protege grow and develop under the guidance of the mentor.
The roles that the mentor may play are those of the teacher, supporter
or sponsor. As a teacher, the mentor teaches the protege the skills and
knowledge needed to perform the job and provides inside information about
the organization, such as politics and personalities. The role of supporter
is one in which the mentor helps the protege deal with his career and personal
conflicts and pressures, and helps build his self-confidence. And, as a
sponsor, the mentor intervenes on the protege's behalf in conflicts that
might endanger the protege's career and markets the protege to upper management.
Is Mentoring For You?
Although mentoring provides an attractive training and development alternative,
it may not be right for your hotel. Mentoring programs work best when specific
human resource needs and conditions exist. In the absence of these conditions,
a mentoring program could actually hurt rather than help your hotel.
Some basic questions need to be answered before launching a mentoring
Does your organization need to prepare people within the organization to
fill future management positions? Proteges join a mentoring program with
the implicit promise that excellent performance will be rewarded by career
advancement. If there is no room at the top for successful proteges, the
organization will be burdened with a surplus of ambitious, overqualified,
and frustrated individuals who will eventually take their skills and talents
If future human resource needs are forecasted, are they continuing or one-time
Does your organization represent an expanding chain of hotels where continued
growth insures an on-going need for upper level managers, or does your
organization represent a single hotel dealing with attrition-related human
resource needs? If this is an infrequent, one-shot occurrence, then a structured
mentoring program would not be cost-effective.
Does your corporate culture value the veteran employee or does it prefer
to buy "new blood" from outside the organization? Developing talent from
within the organization takes time, resources, and long-term commitment
from upper management, making their support vital to the success of the
program. A high level of upper management interest and commitment is needed
from the outset since mentors come from the upper management ranks.
Does your organization have enough suitable managers available to pair
with proteges? Mentors should be at least two position levels above the
protege (to prevent mentors from feeling threatened by their proteges),
competent, widely respected, secure in their jobs, skilled coaches, and
possess excellent interpersonal skills. They should have the time and the
willingness to volunteer for the job.
How will a mentoring program fit in with your other human resource programs?
If successful succession planning and management development programs are
already in place, will a mentoring program replicate, replace or enhance
it? How will a mentoring program link to other training programs? Is there
someone who can initiate and oversee the program? A successful mentoring
program requires someone to coordinate the selection and pairing of mentors
and proteges, establish orientation programs, perform periodic reviews
of the pairs, and to help conclude the relationship.
Mentoring is not a panacea for all organizations; however, given the
right conditions, its organizational benefits can be enormous.
Good mentoring programs attract the best candidates for a job, reduce
turnover of talented people, help people achieve their optimum potential
and productivity, assure a smooth transfer of leadership from one generation
to the next, and encourage communication up and down the organizational
Steps To Implementation Implementing a mentoring program requires the
same careful planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating that any
major project requires.
|1. Select mentoring program coordinator.
The coordinator will be responsible for helping the mentor and protege
negotiate an agreement, conduct orientations, monitor the relationship,
and assist with concluding the relationship.
|2. Select proteges. They should
be intelligent, ambitious, committed to the organization, have good interpersonal
skills, be positively perceived by the organization, and be willing and
able to accept greater responsibility.
|3. Determine the developmental needs of the
protege. This can be accomplished by reviewing the protege's
work record, interviewing the protege and his manager, and testing.
|4. Select mentors. They should
be technically competent, supported by peers and upper management, have
power within the organization, be highly regarded in the organization,
feel secure in their positions, have the time and the desire to assume
responsibility for a protege's career development, and be able to teach,
coach, and motivate others.
|5. Pair proteges and mentors. Considerations
in the paring would be the developmental needs of the protege and the skills
and knowledge of the mentor as well as the personalities of the individuals
|6. Familiarize mentors and proteges with their
roles. Subjects that should be addressed are time commitments,
expectations of mentors and proteges, available resources, relationships
between mentor, protege, protege's manager, and the mentoring coordinator,
and the benefits of mentoring to the mentor, protege, and organization.
|7. Mentors and proteges negotiate and agreement.
Mentors and proteges negotiate an agreement which includes their expectations
and responsibilities, confidentiality, duration of the relationship, scheduling
of meetings, and the amount of time that will be spent on mentoring activities.
|8. Develop plan. The mentor and
protege develop a plan for meeting the needs of the protege.
|9. Implement plan. The mentor and
protege meet periodically for coaching sessions, evaluating progress, and
reviewing the development plan. Progress is periodically reported to the
|10. Conclude the relationship.
Relationships might be concluded when all goals are achieved, the agreement
date is reached, or the protege and mentor feel that the relationship is
no longer productive.
Don't be confused; a mentoring program might consist of just two or
three pairs of people.
Whether you undertake a formal mentoring program as we described above
or simply take some of these ideas and improve the informal mentoring already
occurring in your lodging facility, the result will be a stronger base
One of the most surprising results may be improved retention among your
entry level managers and the line staff that works for them. What better
assets could a lodging facility have than high employee retention with
outstanding job skills and great loyalty?