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Veteran Mentoring Programs

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans in the Workplace study gained insight into practices that improve Veteran retention in the workplace. A critical element to workplace retention advocated by study respondents was employer support and development of Veteran mentoring programs.

Veteran mentoring programs create peer support among Veterans in the civilian workplace.


Veteran mentoring:

  • Forms a voluntary one-on-one relationship between a junior Veteran employee and a senior mentor (preferably someone with military experience)
  • Assists the Veteran employee with his or her personal and professional growth in an organization
  • Focuses on helping the Veteran employee adjust to the civilian workplace culture and reach his or her full potential within the organization

Benefits to the organization:

  • Can increase the morale of Veteran employees
  • Can help new Veteran employees understand and adapt to the job and workplace culture
  • Can lead to increased productivity
  • Can lead to career development and increased employee retention
  • Can promote diversity

Benefits to the mentor:

  • Enhance leadership and coaching skills
  • Gain a better awareness and understanding of employees at the lower levels of the organization
  • Demonstrate expertise and share knowledge
  • Expand career network and exposure in the organization
  • Make a difference in a fellow Veteran’s career

Benefits to the mentee:

  • Make a smoother transition to the civilian workplace
  • Gain career development opportunities
  • Demonstrate strengths and explore potential
  • Expand career network and exposure in the organization
  • Build camaraderie with a fellow Veteran

A Veteran mentoring program is built on trust and can start in several ways:

  • A program can be built by Veterans for Veterans, although anyone can help create the program
  • Veteran middle management employees can garner support for the program from upper management
  • Upper management can tap Veterans within the organization with the skills to make it happen
  • Such a program is voluntary, bringing Veterans together in a trusted and comfortable environment

Developing a Veteran mentoring program:

  • Decide on the goals and objectives
    • Developing leaders
    • Assisting junior employees
    • Increasing employee retention
  • Develop a business case for why the organization should dedicate time and resources to the program
    • Employee growth and engagement
    • Increased retention/decreased turnover
    • Change management/guidance & training
    • Succession planning/leadership development
  • Get support and commitment from top management
  • Assign a program manager to administer the program
  • Create a committee to set the goals and objectives of the program
  • Develop a communications strategy for providing information and updates to mentors and mentees
    • Website page describing the program & announcing updates
    • Social media group for sharing news and ideas
    • Email distribution

Implementing a Veteran mentoring program:

  • Create a marketing and recruiting strategy
    • Let employees know about the program
    • Match mentors selectively with mentees based on compatibility of goals, interests, or preferences
    • Consider using web-based mentoring tools for matching and tracking
  • Train program participants
    • Conduct orientation for mentors and mentees
    • Inform mentors on resources available to Veterans with health or mental health challenges
    • Develop instruction guides that include roles, expectations, topics, and commitments
  • Support the mentoring relationships
    • Provide developmental activities such as seminars, networking events, guest speakers
    • Evaluate when goals have been met and bring closure to mentorships
    • Broadcast successes that demonstrate the value of the program and give recognition to participants

Foundations for a successful mentoring program:

  • Both mentor and mentee should communicate and respect each other’s time
  • Both should share responsibility for the relationship
  • Both should keep an open mind, be flexible, and exchange information
  • Both should have sensitivity to differences in race, gender, backgrounds, and experiences
  • Mentee must take ownership of his or her own career

Sources

Mentoring Handbook. Rep. American Corporate Partners, n.d. Web.
http://acp-usa.org/sites/default/files/ACPMentoringHandbookWinter2013.pdf

How to Build a Mentoring Program: A Mentoring Program Toolkit. Rep. OPM/USPTO Leadership Development Program, 18 Mar. 2010. Web.
http://www.opm.gov/Wiki/uploads/docs/Wiki/OPM/training/Mentoring%20Toolkit%203-18-10.pdf

10 Tips for Starting a Successful Mentoring Program. Rep. Chronus.com, n.d. Web.
http://chronus.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/10-Tips-for-Starting-a-Successful-Mentoring-Program.pdf

Best Practices: Mentoring. Rep. United States Office of Personnel Management, Sept. 2008. Web.
http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/training-and-development/career-development/bestpractices-mentoring.pdf

Travis, Eryn. "What Benefit Does a Company Gain With Mentoring Programs?" Small Business. Demand Media, n.d. Web.
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefit-company-gain-mentoring-programs-20665.html


Note: This material was generated by Corporate Gray and The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University and is based on research conducted under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ contract VA101-C17232.