Human Capital

Mentoring — About Us

The USGS Mentoring Program began as an initiative outlined in the Human Resources Strategic Plan in response to results from an Employee Assessment Survey. The Mentoring Program, in its beginning, was focused on recruiting new employees, retaining new hires, and aiding in acculturation into the USGS. 

Through time and in response to change, the Program has evolved not only to focus on those goals, but also to emphasize the transfer of knowledge, especially with regards to succession planning.

The evolution of the USGS Mentoring Program involved more than a change of focus. It also included a change in methods, a new way of looking at mentoring and the introduction of new technology. The Program began with a bold vision looking at mentoring outside of the box. Traditionally, mentoring partnerships were one on one; followed rigid roles; consisted of older mentors mentoring younger protégés; and were long term partnerships with face-to-face meetings. With time, the Program adopted a more contemporary approach that includes multiple approaches to mentoring recognizing that the mentoring needs of the USGS employees are vast and varied. This contemporary approach results in partnerships that exhibit more flexible roles demonstrating the talent and knowledge brought to the partnership by the protégé. It also allows for non-traditional types of mentoring that better suit the schedules and needs of the employees. This new way of thinking about mentoring formed the basis for a whole new approach.


In the beginning, partnerships were formed using a general set of criteria and serving a few pairs in a small geographic area. With time, the USGS Mentoring Program evolved to service the entire USGS, encompassing the whole United States. As the training needs of the USGS changed, so did the Mentoring Program. Originally, the program matched employees with 3 or fewer years of service using a simple application process. The program has evolved to include all interested USGS employees. In today’s program, potential protégés are given training in determining their objectives and setting their desired goals for the partnership. The application process is now more detailed, placing a greater emphasis on the goals and objectives of the protégé. The pairing process now consists of seeking specific mentors who possess the skills and knowledge necessary to help the protégés meet their goals and objectives.

In addition to focusing on well-suited matches, the USGS Mentoring Program focuses on making the mentoring program efficient and effective. The USGS is a scientific agency on the cutting edge of science, and keeping up with the needs of the employees of the USGS, means keeping up with technology. As budgets have shrunk and the need for training has expanded, new and innovative techniques were introduced to the program.

The USGS Mentoring Program began using cyber seminars for introductory training to cut down on training costs and to reduce the amount of time the mentoring process took participants away from their work. In addition, a shadowing event, where the protégé goes to the duty station of the mentor, paid for by centralized funding, was introduced to reduce the time it took to build a strong and meaningful partnership and to ensure the mentoring process had a successful start. Introductory training delivered via the Internet was so successful that monthly cyber mentoring exchanges (now referred to as Learning Exchanges) were introduced to provide a wide variety of training with minimal cost and maximum benefit. As the mentoring pool expanded and the number of participants increased, it was recognized that within the pool of participants there was a wealth of knowledge. It was also apparent that the Program included participants from across the country, across science disciplines, and from all different grade levels. Using computer technology, additional monthly cyber seminars were offered and hosted by participants “sharing their science.”

The integration of technology into the program has also enabled the Mentoring Program to offer online personality assessments for the enhancements of the partnerships and to take advantage of online surveys to be deployed prior to the beginning of a partnership, midway through a partnership and at the end of the partnership. These online surveys provide immediate feedback from the participants that give insight into the effectiveness of the Program and information concerning modifications that need to be made to make mentoring the training tool of choice for growth and development both professionally and personally.

The ultimate benefit of being on the cutting edge of technology is that it has enabled the USGS Mentoring Program to utilize online technology enabled learning to deliver training to participants on their own time and at their own pace. It ushered in our current mentoring approach, e-mentoring. This method of training has opened the door for many individuals to participate in the USGS Mentoring Program who otherwise would be prohibited due to strict work schedules and shifting workloads.

Mentoring Word Cloud

The USGS Mentoring Program started with a bold vision and keeps moving forward,

  • utilizing the newest and best technology;
  • continuing to receive the support of the executive leaders with a vast number serving as mentors;
  • diligently incorporating input from the employees;
  • and consistently modifying the program to meet the challenges and needs of the participants

The training provided by the Program has had a positive impact on the mission of the USGS to serve the nation by providing reliable, scientific information.

The USGS Mentoring Program has been so successful with its approach that multiple agencies have inquired of our business model. A division of one agency has implemented a mentoring program that mirrors the USGS Mentoring Program. Several agencies have used our model to structure their programs and have even gone so far as to use our training and teaching materials in their entirety as part of their program curriculum. You can see the impact of the USGS Mentoring Program in either the planning stages or the implementation of the mentoring programs of the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). In addition, non-governmental organizations, have adopted the USGS Mentoring Program model for its use in establishing their mentoring programs. From its conception to its current implementation, the USGS Mentoring Program is an effective training tool for growth and development and remains a vital part of succession planning.


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Kim Miller

Leadership/Mentoring Program Manager
Office of Employee Development
Phone: 304-743-5429