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Hilton Mentoring Programme An innovation in human resourcesHilton Mentoring Programme An innovation in human resources

Mentoring is an apprenticeship process in which the mentor acts as a model, a right-hand man and advisor for a less experienced colleague. It is a tool that, when properly handled, can stimulate and optimise career plans within the organisation. Since 2003, the chain Hilton International has decided to push the concept even further, through a programme that could have a reference value in the future.

The goal of the Hilton Mentoring Programme is to develop the careers of future hotel GM, and the four members (as per Hilton own terminology) of the management team, also known as the “4 Ds”: Director of Human Resources, Director of Finances, Director of Operations and Director of Business Development. The reason, an observation made in 2002 upon analysis of results from evaluation centres bearing on the seven previous years: the traditional training methods had become inefficient, or at least insufficient for preparing managers to climb to new levels in the hierarchy. Thus, the idea came about of implementing a programme that is more involved in the changing realities of the trade. A state-of-the-art tool for helping employees in their career plan within the chain. “A lot of companies have recently looked into setting up a mentoring programme. We believe that what is innovative in our approach is the fact that we are not only supporting high potential managers, but consciously attempting to influence the whole operating culture of the organisation,” outlines Tea Colaianni, Vicepresident of Human Resources for Europe and Africa.“Team members are proud of being selected to participate in the Hilton Mentoring Programme and recommend the programme to others,” concludes Tea Colaianni. “Mentors see this as a fantastic opportunity for self-development. As for the mentee’s, Team Members are asking how they can participate in the programme. Most of our targets have been reached. The number of promotions has been enhanced.”The programme is on an international scale in a partnership with the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring (OSC&M). It concerns 90 properties in Europe and Africa. Its goals are multiple, but clear. It is a matter of enlarging the reservoir of potential general managers and division directors (4 Ds), to grow individual motivation while reducing the turnover of valuable personnel. It is also a question of optimising the return on investment in evaluation centres, and, more generally, growing communication between employees throughout the entire organisation.The programme is entirely based on the synergies between two groups: the “mentors” and the “mentees”. In other words: the “master” and the “apprentice”. In fact, it is developed on the model of a virtuous cascade. A first circle shares its knowledge with a broader circle, which then relays it to its entourage, etc. The origin of this comes from directors at Hilton’s Human Resources who did an intensive one-year programme to perfect their own talent regarding coaching and mentoring. It is thus that they were able to buckle down and train the first generation of mentors, because the acquisition of this status cannot be improvised. Before becoming veritable mentors, managers begin by participating in two “e-learning” training sessions: Internet-based “ effective mentoring” and “ementoring”. They then participate in a two-day training programme. The first day, the mentor “to be” learns the general theories, the techniques and the tools that will help him in his task. The training insists on the importance of establishing clear and pertinent goals, listening more than talking, asking questions more than giving instructions and knowing how to lavish positive feedback. All this is realised in vivo through simulations and other role games between colleagues. The opportunity to exchange points of view, to better recognise what works best for each person. The key techniques of mentoring and coaching are taught here: build a relationship, control different levels of listening, use and develop one’s intuition, ask questions, how to congratulate and encourage…Furthermore, in the end participants often perceive “knowing how to listen” as one of the leading lessons. There is no one way to benefit from one’s experiences, whether they are good or bad. The Hilton Mentoring Programme isolates four principals, each of which is born out of the previous one: _ • the activist mode (learning by doing), _ • the pensive approach (analysis of an experience a posteriori), _ • theory (deducing the general principals), _ • the pragmatic attitude (anticipating the next difficulty).At the end of the first day, mentors do a self-evaluation exercise of their own methods.The second day of the programme is a time for apprentices and confirmed mentors to meet. Everything is done so that they acquire a clear, structured view of their role and of the responsibilities that follow.The mentees, meanwhile, attend a half-day briefing during which they are presented with the Hilton Mentoring Toolkit: a box containing both written and multimedia documents, where they will be able to find all the information relative to the programme, to what is expected of them and above all to the benefits they may gain from it.The mentor/mentee relationship is informal, with no hierarchical consideration, which allows for more receptivity and ability to listen on a neutral basis. A precious advantage. It may be quickly observed that the mentees unconsciously become mentors for their own colleagues in their daily work. They reproduce their own experiences with their more seasoned collaborators. This is all the more effective because it is a natural process. Thus, the experience literally trickles down the levels of the hierarchy. It must be noted that the “line managers”, or operating managers, are not excluded from this equation either. They, too, receive a briefing because their role in the process is not negligible: mentoring can only be productive if all three parties are fully implicated.At the end of the first year, Hilton calculated the cost of the operation at nearly 60,000 euros including the implementation of the programme, the realisation of the material, and the training sessions used to train the first mentor circle. The programme – closely followed by Hilton’s department of Human Resources Europe and Africa –already enjoys a very good reputation in house. The questionnaires distributed to participants at the end of the training programme were carefully analysed. And the result is more than positive: the vast majority of those surveyed recognise the impact of the programme on their motivation and their skills. Moreover, many mentors and mentees developed friendships during it, and these relationships will continue well after the training programme.

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