Three Years On: Mentoring at the Department of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada

3. Results (cont'd)

3.3 The National Mentoring Program (cont'd)

3.3.4 Overall satisfaction with the National Mentoring Program (cont'd)

Respondents were also asked if they would recommend the NMP to others. Table 4 below presents the results for associates and mentors.

Table 4: Whether respondents would recommend the NMP to others – Associates and Mentors
Response Associates N=159
n (%)
Mentors N=118
n (%)
Yes 127 (80 %) 102 (86%)
No 10 (6%) 7 (6%)
Don't know 22 (14%) 9 (8%)

Source: National Mentoring Program Survey 2011

The vast majority of both associates (80%) and mentors (86%) would recommend the National Mentoring Program to others. A larger proportion of associates (14%) as compared to mentors (8%) answered “don't know.”

When asked why or why not, almost all respondents provided comments.

It is a great opportunity, at a minimum, for senior staff to get to know more junior lawyers (that they don't work with).

We need a formalized way of providing mentoring and leadership to lawyers at all levels. Without a structure and supports it simply doesn't happen. While there may be informal discussions, the existence of a program demands a greater level of commitment and defined goals.

I think the NMP is a fantastic opportunity for DOJ/PPSC employees to develop and learn - both mentors and associates - drawing from the Department's capacity.

Because it is a wonderfully structured way to encourage networking and the continued growth of our strongest asset - our people. Because it helps to break down barriers between HQ and regions. Because it allows for open, honest conversation.

On the survey, the positive comments far outnumbered the negative and we obviously, cannot include all comments in this short report. Below are two comments from those who would not recommend the NMP:

I did not find it helpful. It is obvious that some mentors adhere to it because they are encouraged to by upper management but do not expect to provide the associate with real time.

This program did not work for me at all. I was matched with a mentor but told not to begin the mentoring relationship until I had some kind of training. That is the last I heard and have never spoken with my mentor.

In the first quotation, it is the mentoring relationship that was unsatisfactory and without knowing any more details about that particular relationship, could be seen to illustrate the disadvantages if mentoring is mandatory. In the second quotation, it is the NMP that did not fulfill expectations for the associate. It should be noted that the NMP encourages associates to be pro-active with their relationships and contact their mentors as opposed to waiting for their mentors or the NMP to schedule first and future meetings.

3.3.5 What more could the NMP do to assist mentoring relationships

In addition, respondents were asked if there is anything the NMP – which is designed as a facilitated program - could do to assist more with the mentoring relationship. Many comments were provided in answer to this question, both on the survey and from those interviewed. There was only one individual, however, who indicated that this informal approach was working well.

I like the informal, arms length relationships that the NMP supports.

Overall, those who participated in this study want more support from the NMP and believe that this support would help to foster stronger allegiance to the NMP, a culture of mentoring in JUS/PPSC, and more productive relationships. Most comments included specific ideas that do not necessarily require significant resources, of what this support could encompass. The comments and discussion are divided below into three themes: onus to make the relationship work, additional activities, and connections with the NMP.

3.3.5.1 The Logistics of Making the Relationship Work – Onus

As noted earlier, the NMP encourages the associate to take the lead, yet as one survey respondent noted:

I think it is improper for the associate to have to try to make the relationship work; I mean setting up the meetings, etc.

It is easy to forget the hierarchical nature of the public service. For those who are relatively new to JUS or PPSC, it can be intimidating sending an email to someone more senior. There were a number of comments about this, both in the survey and in interviews, and mostly from associates.

There were also suggestions provided about how to make the initial contacts and scheduling of meetings work. One mentor, who also facilitates Orientation sessions, provided this:

I always tell those in the Orientation sessions how I facilitate meetings with new associates as an example. I get a sense of the associate's schedule and then I set up a recurring meeting. I make a commitment that if I have to cancel, a new invitation will be sent within 2-3 days. I encourage my associates to email me in between meetings if they have something they want to ask me. I also let them know that if I haven't responded in 24 hours, send me a reminder.

This mentor has taken on the responsibility of coordinating the initial contact and scheduling meetings. An associate noted that as she left her mentor's office after a meeting, he would steer her straight to his assistant to book another meeting. Perhaps this responsibility would be better placed on mentors, at least at the outset until a rapport is well-established between mentor and associate.

One possibility might be to schedule a follow-up session with “newly matched” associates six-months after they attend an Orientation session to see how the relationships are working. TheNMP could use the opportunity to remind them of resources, assist with problem-solving and stay connected withNMP participants.

It might be useful to do a signals check with everyone in mentoring relationships to see if it is working for them. If it is not, perhaps you could facilitate allowing them to "move on".

3.3.5.2 Additional activities

Numerous different activities were suggested and by many people, which is evidence that these study participants have given the NMP some thought. They can be grouped into formal training, informal training and networking.

Overall, I believe the NMP is an excellent program; however, I felt as though the program could do more, in facilitating mentors and associates working together in some practical, real way.

While I like the idea of the program, I had expected that there would be more support beyond simply matching mentors and associates.

i) Formal training

There were numerous mentors who expressed a need for some kind of formal training. A number of mentors and associates are interested in short sessions – half a day or even a brown bag lunch type event – with specific topics such as how to mentor effectively and how to make the most out of your one hour meeting, or the difference between mentoring and coaching.

These could be led byNMP staff or by one of the many experienced and dedicated mentors that participate in the NMP. If resources permitted, an external coach could provide a series of learning sessions over the course of the year. One respondent even named the events as “TheNMP Learning Series” with one in the fall, one in the winter and one in the spring. If training events were held in the NCR or in another region, they could be available to the other regions via videoconference or they could be taped with the DVDs shared for events organized in other regions on their own schedules.

I just wish more activities would be organized that are not formal training sessions, but simply opportunities to learn from and interact with one another.

There is obviously nothing stopping an associate or mentor from organizing such an informal learning event, but the NMP is there to support mentoring in JUS/PPSC. In organizing such events, the NMP raises its own profile and the profile of mentoring.

ii) Informal training

There were also calls for some informal events. Instead of formal training, one associate noted that:

Perhaps we could have a session where mentees (associates) get together to share experiences, with only mentees.

These events would require a facilitator – again the NMP staff or a volunteer from the NMP – for short, informal sessions on topics such as this one suggested by another associate:

I would like to hear from others on how to tell your mentor that you feel you are ready to end the relationship.

Interestingly, this topic of “how to end a relationship” was also raised by mentors, several of whom suggested that this would be a good area for assistance from the NMP. In addition, mentors requested resources such as this:

It would be helpful if the program could provide a suggested list of topic areas that mentors and associates could consider discussing to help focus attention on useful subjects they may not otherwise have considered.

iii) Networking events, acknowledgements

In addition to both formal and informal training, there were also suggestions for networking events for mentors and associates, as well as mentors only.

Any formal or informal training session, including and particularly events like brown bag lunches, can be effective networking opportunities so long as there is time for questions and discussions. One additional idea, among many, was to have an annual “Mentoring Day” that would be held at the same time each year (for example October to mark the initial launch in October of 2008). Regions could host their own events around the same time.

They could include some words from the Champions or Ambassadors or a mentor-associate pair, updates fromNMP staff and then the opportunity to network. Such an event in the coming months would present a great opportunity to launch the automated matching program (and even have on-site computer kiosks where individuals could update their profiles on the spot), as well as present the results from this study. As one mentor noted during his interview,

Do share the report with all program participants; it might help revitalize interest in the program.

These events would also provide the opportunity to thank mentors for their time and energy to mentor others. As one senior manager noted,

I suggest finding a way to formally acknowledge the work of mentors.

Mentors are volunteers and any program that involves volunteers will tell you that volunteers need to feel their efforts are appreciated; they are giving their time to make the NMP work. Letters of thanks to mentors from the Co-Champions or a page devoted to thanking mentors are other ideas to acknowledge the time and energy committed. TheNMP is very cost effective, but it could not exist without the heavy investment made by mentors.

All these ideas for additional activities reflect the on-going commitment that those who participated in the study feel toward mentoring. Mentors want more support from the NMP in order to fulfil their role as best they can and associates want to make the most of their meeting time with their mentors.

3.3.6 The Matching Process

On the survey, associates were asked additional questions about the matching process which has been undertaken by a NMP staff person since the launch in October 2008. Associates were asked to rank their satisfaction with the matching process. It is important to keep in mind that not all associates would have been matched by the NMP (see footnote 4). A 5-point scale was used and the results are presented in Figure 7 below. As with the presentation of other scale results, the scale rankings have been combined for ease of reference.

Figure 7: Associates' satisfaction with the matching process

Figure 7, chart representing Associates’ satisfaction with the matching process.

Figure 7 - Text equivalent

This is a vertical bar chart that illustrates Associates’ satisfaction with the matching process.

The Y axis is measured in percentage and increases in increments of 10 from 0 to 70.

The X axis lists the following options to measure satisfaction with the matching process from left to right: Satisfied, Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, Dissatisfied, Not applicable. 60% of Associates were satisfied with the matching process, 17% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, 6% were dissatisfied, and 17% answered Not applicable.

Source: National Mentoring Program Survey 2011; N = 159

The majority of associates (60%) indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the matching process, while a small percentage (6%) indicated that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Almost one-fifth of associates (17%) stated that this question was not applicable to their situation likely because they already had a mentor when they registered in the NMP. If we consider only those for which the matching process was applicable, then 73% indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the matching process. It was not feasible to determine average matching times from data from the NMP administrative database. As of October 1, 2011, there were only two individuals who had not been matched within the 90-day timeframe.

Many comments were provided by associates, and even by mentors, about the matching process. For example, one mentor indicated that a worry plagued her and actually prevented her from registering:

But what if I don't like the person I'm paired with?

Associates also noted that they would “ask around” and “check out” the different mentors provided by the NMP. The issue of compatibility is common in any formal program. The alternative, of course, is entirely formal mentoring which works well for some individuals but also can leave people – most often those who may not share the same interests or backgrounds of the majority – out.

In one interview, a mentor talked about her own matching system. When she has encouraged her team members to register with the NMP, she helps them “find” a mentor by directly asking people in the Department she knows personally (or just through reputation) if they would consider being a mentor to her team member. She has found that because she knows the personality and the learning needs of her employees, she can think of people in the Department who would be good mentors for these employees. No one has ever said no to her requests. Sometimes the mentors are registered already in the NMP and sometimes not. In all cases, they are already mentoring and most have been for years.

Another survey respondent noted that,

Les jumelages de mentors et associés se font TRÈS lentement.

Echoing these sentiments, a senior manager added that,

The process seems slow and complicated…need something less cumbersome. Some associates have waited a long time to be matched. This has been discouraging for them.

TheNMP has long recognized the challenges of one employee working to match strangers based on information provided on an intake form, particularly if the information provided is limited. An automated matching system should be launched by the end of 2011-2012 and is intended to address the issues of delay. The new system will work as follows: An associate will complete his or her profile and submit it electronically to the NMP as currently occurs. As soon as it is submitted, the associate will immediately receive by email one or more matches. The associate can look up the profiles of the proposed mentors and or send them questions by email. The associate can also change his or her profile at any time and generate different matches.  

The survey respondents were also asked if they requested to be matched with someone of the same gender. Of those who answered this question (158 associates and 76 mentors), just under one-fifth of associates (n = 30) and 12% (n = 9) of mentors requested to be matched with someone of the same gender. Also, a small number (n = 8) of associates and mentors (n = 2) indicated that their mentor was of the same Employment Equity group(s) as themselves. Few associates (n = 4) and mentors (n = 2) requested to be matched with someone who belonged to the same Employment Equity group(s).

3.3.7 Issues Important to Associates and Whether Mentoring was Helpful

Associates were also asked whether, at the beginning of their career with the Department of Justice Canada or the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, a number of issues were important to them and whether they felt that mentoring had helped with these issues. Table 5 below lists these issues and the percentage of associates who indicated that the issue was important to them and the percentage who indicated that mentoring was helpful with the issue.

Table 5: Important issues and helpfulness of mentoring
Topic n (%)
indicating issue was important
n (%)
indicating that mentoring was
helpful with issue
A sense of belonging to the organization 141 (91%) 88 (59%)
Developing operational savvy 141 (92%) 98 (64%)
Feeling valued by the organization 140 (90%) 60 (39%)

Source: National Mentoring Program Survey 2011; Ns range from 150 to 155

One of the objectives of the NMP is “to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.” Achieving such an objective would occur over the longer term. The questions above provide some understanding of how mentoring can assist all employees including those belonging to an Employment Equity (EE) group For example, of those associates who self-identified as a member of anEE group, 87% said that “a sense of belonging to the organization” is important and of those, 63% said that mentoring had helped with this.

It is interesting that less than half of those who said that feeling valued by the organization is important to them believed that mentoring has been helpful with this. At this still early stage of the NMP, mentors may not be seen as representing the organization. This may be because the sense of feeling valued may come more from one's actual work. For example, it is one's manager and or supervisor who would recognize an employee's contribution directly.

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