Human Capital

Mentoring FAQs for Supervisors

1.  What kind of benefits can I expect from supporting an employee in a mentoring partnership?
Mentoring is largely about development of the protégé and that development can take a variety of forms. Mentoring can provide direct transfer of knowledge, increased awareness of USGS issues, provide insights into our culture and can even help to define career paths and identify leadership opportunities. Many mentoring partnerships serve to identify the need for individual professional development. Mentoring can improve motivation, boost confidence and maximize employee contribution. Mentors report a number of benefits as well. Some have mentioned a renewed sense of their own contribution and exposure to "fresh" ideas from a protégé often improves their commitment and job satisfaction.

2.  Is supervisory approval and support required for participation in the mentoring program?
Yes. Supervisory approval is required and supervisory support is essential to a successful mentoring partnership. It is important that supervisors are aware of the benefits of the program. They also need to know that some mentoring meetings will occur during work hours. Salary costs are to be covered by mentoring participant’s office.

3.  What kind of supervisory support do my employees require in their mentoring partnerships?
All mentoring partnerships require supportive supervisors to be truly successful. Supervisors are required to allow mentoring participants 2-4 hours per month for mentoring activities and encouragement to reach their goals and objectives.  Not only is it critical for supervisors to be aware of a mentoring partnership, we also instruct participants to communicate their goals and objectives the mentoring partners are working on, a schedule of meetings, and the how the mentoring partnership might benefit their work group.

5.  How much time does a mentoring partnership take?
No two mentoring partnerships are identical regarding the amount of time invested. The frequency and duration of meetings is largely a factor of the protégé’s objectives balanced against the schedules and availability of the mentoring partners.  Successful mentoring requires time.  We recommend approximately 2-4 hours of mentoring activity per month.  However, we do stress that the work assigned takes first priority and the Mentoring Program is not to be used as an excuse for missing a deadline or neglecting a project.

6.  Is mentoring truly supported by USGS leadership? 
Mentoring is well supported by the Regional Executives and their leadership teams as well as the USGS Executive Leadership Team in Reston. These groups have consistently championed mentoring in a variety of ways including communicating and promoting the program, recognizing those who are actively mentoring and participating as formal mentors.

7.  Why would one of my employees want a mentor?
There are numerous benefits for your employees who make an effort to develop a mentoring partnership. Some of the most common include, professional development, gaining advice and perspective from a trusted, impartial advisor, the possibility of expanding professional networks, transfer of technical skills and even career guidance.

8.  Can I become a mentor for one of my employees?
Although many supervisors consider themselves as mentors to their employees, something the mentoring program truly applauds, even an informal agreement to focus on the development of a specific employee in the work setting runs counter to the responsibility supervisors have for the equal development of all of their employees. Additionally, mentoring partner agreements are premised on confidentiality on specific issues brought up in the context of a mentoring partnership. Confidentiality between the supervisor and the employee runs counter to the requirement of the supervisory performance appraisal, which becomes a matter of record.

9.  What are the actual goals of the USGS Mentoring Program?
The Executive Leadership Team originally tasked the Mentoring Program with supporting USGS recruitment and retention, providing an avenue for skill transfer, encouraging cross-discipline connections, encouraging individual professional development and supporting leadership.  More recently the Mentoring Program is being used as a tool for succession planning and education in the form of skill transfer.

10.  What are the benefits of having one of my employees mentored by someone in a different discipline? 
A mentor from a different discipline can provide perspectives which serve to expand the protégé's understanding of the USGS and, in some cases, cross-discipline partnerships have proven useful with the mentoring partner's current project assignments. Additionally, with the current push towards interdisciplinary science, it is increasingly important to know people and the projects occurring in other disciplines. The mentoring program can offer a way to meet this need.

11.  If one of my employees is selected for the 1-year guided program, can I provide feedback to the Mentoring Program? 
Supervisors are always welcome to contact the Mentoring Program Manager to offer their thoughts and their suggestions.


« Return to Mentoring | « Mentoring Links


Kim Miller

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