Newest Enterprise Social App: Mentoring

Connecting employees and mentors online proves efficient, says Triple Creek, whose software has found fans in AT&T, Fannie Mae, and Agilent.
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Mentoring works better online, according to an enterprise mentoring software specialist, and major companies are signing up to use it to supplement or replace traditional corporate mentoring programs.

In the Triple Creek system, users create profiles of their professional skills and the skills they could use help developing, and they can send an online invitation to a mentor they would like to be matched with.

"People accept it like they accept a LinkedIn invitation," Triple Creek President and CEO Randy Emelo said in an interview. As necessary, administrators can also assign mentors to specific engagements "so there is less choice in the matter" in that case, he said.

Triple Creek plans to announce Wednesday that AT&T, Fannie Mae, Agilent, Baird, Northern Trust, American Axle, CPMS, Sysmex, Unicredit, and Lasalle have all adopted the latest version of its software, Open Mentoring 5.0. "We've created a guided or structured learning process that leverages the social layer," Emelo said. "There is a matching algorithm at the center of it that brokers the mentoring relationships."

This is a more ad hoc way of educating a workforce than formal training programs and yet mentoring mediated by an online service turns out to be much more effective than traditional mentoring programs, where participation is often very low, Emelo said. Although Triple Creek markets itself under the label "enterprise mentoring software," many customers don't refer to their implementations as mentoring services, instead calling them something like "learning collaboration." Lockheed Martin refers to its program as a "knowledge continuity" strategy to pass knowledge from more experienced users to more junior ones.

One way an online system expands the possibilities is by allowing employees to connect according to the skills they possess, or are seeking to learn, regardless of geography. In most cases, the mentoring relationship is conducted entirely online using phone calls and Web conferences, Emelo said.

Lisa Zuegel, who runs Agilent's Next Generation Leadership Programs, said in a statement that the high tech measurement firm will use Open Mentoring 5.0 to "achieve speed to competence, to market, and to enduring results" by connecting scientists, engineers, and service providers with peers they can learn from. "We know that our employees are our true differentiator, and we need to enable them to share, integrate, and collaborate outside of their domain of expertise to make their greatest contributions."

Training software has also been turned into social software with products like Taleo Social Learning. Emelo said Triple Creek's mentoring software can be used as a complement to formal learning management systems and other training products.

Another area of overlap is with enterprise social software, since Triple Creek provides its own system for establishing profiles and making connections between employees rather than leveraging a common platform such as Jive, Yammer, or SharePoint. "We are speaking to several of those providers," Emelo said, and Triple Creek can integrate with them at the level of single sign-on across accounts. So far, Triple Creek still needs to provide its own profiles because it tracks different data and user preferences, he said.

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