Mentoring case studies

This article is part of a series from Good Practice, offered to ICAS members as part of the ICAS mentoring programme.

Below are some examples of mentoring schemes, problems that were encountered and their successes.

Introducing mentoring at Shell

Shell, a multinational specialising in petrochemicals, introduced a mentoring scheme to its research and technical services division in 1997. The division, which provides technical advice to companies that comprise the Shell group is now acknowledged by Clutterbuck and Associates as being an extremely successful example of modern mentoring.[1]

By 1997, Shell had already been using mentoring to successfully develop graduates for a number of years. The success of these relatively formal mentoring schemes had led to them considering mentoring in the research and technical services division. With the full support of senior management, the research and technical services division set about looking at their options.

The mentoring environment

The structure of the research and technical services division is far from hierarchical. In fact, it is almost as flat as is possible, with a managing committee assigning projects to teams. Within the teams, responsibility is shared equally and important decisions are made on rotation.

Careers at Shell are usually planned on a three to four-year basis. It is thought that after this time period, individuals have usually acquired enough professional and interpersonal skills to work in a more senior position the company.

According to Clutterbuck, Mentoring is perfectly matched as a development tool in this environment for two reasons. First, it provides a balance between individual development and company development. Second, mentors are usually those who have successfully developed professionally within the company and therefore have experience of the less conventional methods of career development.

Teething problems

Initially, the scheme ran into problems when senior management tried to force clients and mentors together and this raised suspicion among mentors and clients about the motives behind the scheme. This was quickly remedied by a change after the first year, which saw a more flexible approach to assigning mentors to clients.

The changed scheme removed elements of suspicion by allowing mentors to select clients that they felt would be compatible with their style of mentoring. Graduate CV's are now grouped together and potential mentors look for a short list of suitable partners. The mentors then make a final selection by meeting face to face with the short-listed graduates. The final decision is made by the client, who decides whether the mentor that has chosen them is suitable.

Effective mentors at Shell are encouraged by senior management to have up to three clients. By the year 2000, there were 70 mentors and 130 clients in the division, despite a shrinking workforce at Shell over the same period.


Since it's inception, the mentoring scheme has grown into a successful development tool. The introduction of basic project management principles and a basic effective administration system has seen the scheme grow consistently from the start.

Source: 'More Than a Match' at: //

[1] 'More Than a Match', Clutterbuck and Associates web site at:

Maternity mentoring at the Scottish Parliament

Maternity mentoring can be a valuable tool to help new mothers feel motivated and involved upon their return to the workplace. The Scottish Parliament was one of the first organisations in Scotland to introduce a maternity mentoring programme. Driven by a new legislative context and research which highlighted the challenges faced by working mothers, the programme not only raises awareness of the issues facing new parents, but also provides tailored support to help new mothers through this often difficult transition period. [1]

This article looks at how the maternity mentoring programme was established at the Scottish Parliament, and the benefits that have resulted from its introduction. [2]

About The Scottish Parliament [3]

  • The Scottish Parliament is the seat of Scottish governance and was created in 1999 following the 1997 UK referendum. [4]
  • The Scottish Parliament exists to identify and debate issues of importance in Scotland and to create subsequent legislation.
  • Based at Holyrood in Edinburgh, there are 129 elected Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). A further 500 staff are employed by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB), to support the work of the Parliament and its MSPs.

How do new mothers feel?

Equalities research shows that many women find it difficult to combine their work and family life effectively, and can face disadvantages in terms of their pay and progression for working reduced hours and taking time out from their careers. [5] Furthermore, returning to work after maternity leave can be a difficult time for many mothers. They can experience feelings of guilt as they spend less time with their child, as well as a lack of confidence and self-esteem after being out of the workplace.

The business case for maternity mentoring

To help establish a business case for a maternity mentoring programme, the Equalities Team at the Parliament conducted research into the experiences of women returning to work after maternity leave. In the survey: [6]

  • 65% of respondents said they would have benefited from having more contact with the Parliament during their maternity leave
  • 82% expressed a need for clearer and further guidance and advice on their entitlements, childcare and what their rights were as pregnant workers
  • 23% of those surveyed were concerned about returning to work on a part-time basis and felt anxious about whether this would affect their career prospects
  • all respondents felt that they would have benefited from a maternity mentoring programme and would greatly welcome one being established

Based on this research, the Parliament decided to introduce a two year pilot maternity mentoring programme. Beginning in 2007, the programme aimed to:

  1. provide a link between employees on maternity leave and the Parliament
  2. offer tailored advice, support and guidance on a range of issues throughout the period of maternity leave and once the individual returns to work
  3. to help new parents cope with work and family commitments when they returned to the Parliament

About the programme

Once an employee (the mentee) informs the Human Resources Office of their pregnancy, they are sent information about the maternity mentoring programme and are invited to join. If the staff member is interested, they are matched with an appropriate internal mentor via a matching process. The mentor and mentee have an initial meeting before the mentee starts maternity leave, which covers:

  • introductions (if mentee and mentor don't know each other)
  • the background to mentoring and the benefits it can offer
  • the range of support the mentor can offer
  • what is expected of both mentor and mentee within a mentoring relationship
  • what to do if there is a breakdown in the mentoring relationship
  • details of the Parliament's Maternity Staff Network [7]
  • the need for confidentiality

The matching process

The success of the MMP is due in part to the detailed matching process that is carried out by the Equalities Team to bring together mentees with a suitable mentor. Each mentor is asked to provide a list of the skills and experiences they can bring to a mentoring relationship. Furthermore, each mentee is asked to describe what they want from a mentoring relationship. This information helps to match mentors and mentees as closely as possible.

Outcomes of the pilot

An important aspect of the pilot was that it allowed evaluation of the mentoring programme to be carried out. As Aneela McKenna, Equalities Manager at the Parliament says:

"The pilot helped us to measure the success of the maternity mentoring programme, as well as the impact on mentors and mentees."

Evaluation data was gathered from pilot participants before, during and upon completion of their mentoring relationships using detailed qualitative questionnaires. The evaluation showed that mentors were able to develop a wide range of skills, whilst mentees benefited from improved confidence and self-esteem. Furthermore, the pilot also helped to iron out a number of practical issues, including:

  • Suitable meeting places. Specific criteria were produced to help mentors and mentees understand the boundaries of their relationship. This guidance recommends that mentees come to the Parliament to meet with their mentor or at a location nearby, rather than meeting at the mentee's home.
  • Keeping in touch (KIT) days. [8] As a consequence of the pilot, the Parliament's Senior Leadership Team (SLT) agreed to class involvement in the mentoring programme as a KIT day, and where appropriate, payment would be made. [9]
  • Breastfeeding/parenting room. It was recognised that mothers coming to the Parliament to meet their mentors needed a quiet place where they could feed and care for their babies. The breastfeeding/parenting room was therefore established and contains many essential items including a feeding chair, sofa, fridge, changing table and feeding equipment.
  • Resources for mentors. A guidance pack was produced which contained practical information to help mentors answer a wide range of queries from mentees. This included details of the Parliament's flexible working policy, as well as it's maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave arrangements. Guidance also covered the counselling and occupational health service, and details of the health and safety team and childcare voucher provision. Further guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions provides both mentors and mentees with more detailed information on questions they may have about the scheme.

Benefits of using internal mentors

The Parliament decided to train existing employees to build up internal mentoring capabilities, rather than using an external coach or consultancy. The Parliament worked with Di Airey of Diversity Dynamics and Sam Pringle of Beeleaf Consulting to devise a training programme for mentors to help them understand the purpose of their role and the likely scenarios they could be involved in with a mentee. [10]

Internal mentors were used because they:

  • Can share their personal experiences of being on maternity leave and combining work and family life. They also have an awareness of the issues and challenges that being a working parent can bring.
  • Have an in-depth knowledge of the Parliament as an organisation, including its culture, career progression and networking opportunities.

As Samantha Currie, one of the Parliament's 15 mentors explains: [11]

"The fact that I can be a link from the new mother to the Parliament, and offer someone advice is brilliant. I realised how important the scheme was when a friend of mine had no contact from her employer from the day she went off until it was time to return. She was worried and stressed and it spoiled the last few days of her maternity leave."

Outcomes of the programme

Following the success of the pilot, the SLT agreed that the full programme could be rolled out across the Parliament in 2009. Key outcomes of the programme included benefits for mentees and mentors, as well for as the wider organisation, for example:

For mentees

  • Improved confidence, motivation and self-esteem, as well as greater recognition and transferral of the skills that are developed whilst on maternity leave.
  • Improved communication and interaction with the Parliament whilst on maternity leave.
  • Better access to information about changes to working practices and other developments at the Parliament.
  • Access to a range of networking opportunities and support.

For mentors

  • Professional development gained through enhanced coaching and mentoring skills, with many skills transferred back into a mentor's 'day job'.
  • Experience in dealing with challenging situations, e.g. having conversations about sensitive or emotive issues. [11]
  • An opportunity to demonstrate expertise and share knowledge and skills.
  • Personal satisfaction, as well as greater recognition and credibility.

For the Parliament as a whole

  • Improved external recognition of the Parliament as a family friendly employer.
  • Retention of an important internal talent pool, as individuals feel supported by their employer.
  • Wider knowledge across the organisation of the issues faced by individuals going on maternity, extended paternity and adoption leave.


As this case study shows, there are many advantages to be gained by introducing a maternity mentoring scheme. Not only does it help new mothers feel supported and motivated as they return to work, but it also encourages the development of a range of skills for both mentors and mentees which boosts their professional development. Additional benefits include improved staff retention and awareness of maternity-related issues faced by employees.

[1] The Work and Families Act 2007 aims to provide more choice for families on how they balance work and caring responsibilities, and encourages employers to provide more support to help support work life balance. The Gender Equality Duty (GED) provides an opportunity to consider gender in all areas of policy making, and to bring about gender equality wherever possible. Find out more about the Work and Families Act at: // and the GED at:

[2] This article is based on an interview with Aneela McKenna, Equalities Manager at the Scottish Parliament, which was conducted on 10 September 2010.

[3] // (11 August 2010).

[4] For more information on the UK Referendum of 1997, see: // August 2010.

[5] Liz Morris, 'The experiences of women returning to work after maternity leave in the UK', National Childbirth Trust, (2009), available at: //

[6] This research was conducted with 85% of women who returned to work at the Parliament in the last five years following a period of maternity leave.

[7] The Parliament's Maternity Staff Network meets every few months and provides a forum for people to discuss and share their experiences. It is open to anyone employee who is pregnant, but is also open to those who are thinking about starting a family, those who already have children or who may have experienced difficulties in starting a family.

[8] Keeping in touch (KIT) days form part of a woman's statutory entitlement during maternity leave. An individual can undertake up to 10 days work for their employer whilst on maternity leave, without affecting their maternity pay. For more information on KIT days see: //

[9] The senior leadership team is comprised of the Clerk/Chief Executive of the Parliament, three Assistant Clerks/ Chief Executives, and the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament.

[10] For more information about Beeleaf Consulting, see: For more information about Diversity Dynamics, see:

[11] Lynsey Moss, Mentors show parents back to work, The Scotsman, (4 January 2010), Available at:

[12] Sensitive issues might include raising the topic of post-natal depression or discussing breastfeeding issues.

State Street's mentoring programme

Within any organisation, the variety of skills, strengths and expertise among employees can create valuable opportunities for knowledge sharing and learning.

Keen to provide formal support for this, State Street, a global financial services organisation, introduced a mentoring programme to their UK business in 2002.

In this interview we speak to Barry Muir, Senior Vice President and Chair of State Street's UK mentoring committee, about how the programme was first established and how it has evolved over the years.

About State Street

State Street is a global financial services organisation, specialising in investment servicing, investment research and trading and investment management. With headquarters in the US, State Street employees 25,300 people across 25 countries and has UK sites in London and Edinburgh.

Interview overview

This interview has a running time of 12 minutes and covers the following areas:

  • an overview of State Street's UK mentoring programme, including its design and implementation
  • the process for matching mentors to mentees, and how this has evolved
  • how the mentoring programme is communicated across the organisation to attract mentors and mentees
  • how the programme is evaluated
  • State Street's plans for introducing online mentoring

Image credit: Flickr user Mike Baird (accessed 31 March 2104).

Retaining female talent at Deloitte

Corporate interest in talent management is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, in 1992, Deloitte, the global accounting and consultancy firm, embarked on an ambitious programme that ultimately changed the way the firm retained and developed female talent. In the Harvard Business Review,[1] Douglas M. McCracken, chairman of Deloitte Consulting describes the programme, called the Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. We review his thoughts here.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was becoming apparent to certain managers in Deloitte that although the firm was recruiting a large number of talented females from colleges in the US, it was having trouble retaining them. In fact, in 1991, only 5% of directors and partners were women. Today, despite being in the middle of a 'War for Talent'[2], Deloitte employs nearly three times more females than in the early 1990s and, at the time of writing, boasted the largest proportion of female professionals of the 'big five' accountancy firms.

The steep rise in the number of women in senior positions can be traced back to a 1992 task force chaired by Deloitte's CEO, Mike Cook. From this grew the Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. Cook argued that since the product that professional firms offer is ostensibly talent, any problem that increases the turnover of talent is a 'primary business concern as well a moral one'.

Addressing the issue

After discussing the problem, the taskforce arranged workshops for every one of the 5,000 management professionals in the US during the remainder of 1992 and 1993. The purpose of the workshops was to investigate the issues that discouraged women from following long-term career paths with Deloitte. The workshops contributed dramatically to what would become a major cultural shift throughout the organisation. According to McCracken, many attendees entered the two-day workshops cynics and left converted after facing the reality that women working at Deloitte were suffering from following very different gender-related career paths.

It became clear that although many of Deloitte's employees assumed that women professionals were leaving to start families or stay at home, the decrease in the proportion of women professionals at senior levels was actually due to an endemic male-dominated culture.

The workshops inevitably cost the firm a substantial amount of revenue in terms of the billable time of professionals in the short term. However, fearsome public commitment from Mike Cook ensured that there were no absentees from workshops and that it was lifted above the damaging 'this year's initiative' tag.

Deloitte's Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women was publicly launched in 1993 with a press conference and the appointment of an external advisory council to add to internal pressure on managers to bring about the change in culture. The council was given added gravitas by the appointment of Lynn Martin, a former US secretary of labour.

The firm then set about implementing plans to fight the war for talented female professionals at all levels. Among the many methods used to bring about the cultural shift was internal and external pressure on managers to review the way in which they assigned jobs and tracked the activities of women in their offices. Another innovation was the introduction of formal career planning sessions for women with the long-term objective of making senior management or partner.


Since 1991, overall staff turnover at the firm has fallen from 25% to 18%, and a large proportion of this is attributed to the Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. Douglas McCracken believes that the cultural changes brought about by the initiative have significantly contributed to Deloitte's reputation today as leaders in their approach to retaining female talent, a truly meritocratic organisation and the fastest growing of the 'big five'.

Source: McCraken D M, D R, 'Winning the Talent War for Women: Sometimes It takes a Revolution', Harvard Business Review, (November–December 2000). 

[1] Douglas M McCraken, 'Winning the Talent War for Women: Sometimes It takes a Revolution', Harvard Business Review, (November–December, 2000).

[2] Chambers et al, 'The War for Talent', The McKinsey Quarterly, No 3, (1998) pp 44-57; and E Axelrod, H Handfield-Jones, T Welsh, 'War For Talent (Part 2)', The Mckinsey Quarterly, Number 2 (2001), for an update on the seminal survey.

The coaching culture at KPMG

Coaching has always been an integral element of the culture at KPMG. In recent years, coaching has become embedded into the partner admissions process. The firm now has a number of people at senior level who have experienced coaching and fully appreciate its importance to individuals and hence to the firm. One-to-one coaching is increasingly sought out by individuals on all aspects of personal development and career management.

John Bailey, Director of Coaching at KPMG, has been involved in coaching at KPMG for eight years. He is insistent that at KPMG, coaching does not take the form of a 'programme' but is instead represented by the way in which people work with one another and with their clients. Coaching is ultimately seen at KPMG as a means of being even better than you already are and not just as a way of addressing a development need.

As a result, coaching is increasingly sought out as a means of development by key players and is starting to be seen as the development solution of choice across the organisation. The benefits of this according to Bailey are that individuals are able to capitalise on their strengths by considering how they can build on their existing success in their role in the firm and address key development areas.

What does a coaching culture mean in KPMG?

At KPMG the words 'coaching' and 'mentoring' are generally used interchangeably. The firm has developed central definitions to clarify what is meant by each, but what Bailey sees as being more important is that the coach/mentor is clear about their role.

Within KPMG, a coaching culture refers to the quality of helpfulness that exists within the firm. This can be categorised under two main headings:

1. Relate to one another

For example:

  • when developing an idea, doing so with a coaching and enabling leadership style
  • encouraging and enabling coaching and mentoring processes
  • encouraging and supporting an environment where people feel motivated and encouraged and receive timely and constructive feedback
  • continuing to enhance the quality of performance management processes

2. The accessibility and availability of more structured help

For example:

  • the accessibility of coaching following specific development activities
  • having learning and knowledge management tools that provide intelligent information and help people to make the right decisions

Coaching resources available to support a coaching culture

The firm has an extensive range of resources available to individuals to support and drive a coaching culture. These can be categorised under three headings:


The people available include:

  • Internal consultants: These comprise career coaches, learning and development coaches and internal Human Resources consultants.
  • External consultants: The firm has a faculty of external coaches who are able to bring specific skills experience to some coaching situations, particularly those arising during the partner admissions process.


The firm provides web-based guidance to help staff access the resources they need. This includes guidance on:

  • developing coaching skills
  • identifying a coach to meet a specific need
  • coaching support available following specific development and assessment processes and activities
  • the range of local coaching activities taking place within the firm


There are a number of activities in place to support coaching at KPMG including formal coaching skills development programmes and local drop-in clinics to meet needs on a just-in-time basis. Regular opportunities exist for people in formal internal coaching roles to share their learning and experiences in supporting and driving a coaching culture.

The success of coaching activity is determined by behavioural change or continued success in a role. Where coaching is sourced externally through Bailey, coachees are surveyed for feedback. Ongoing feedback about the quality of internally sourced coaching is obtained through formal and informal channels and used to inform the firm's approach to individual and organisational development.


Bailey has identified two barriers to a coaching culture at KPMG:

  • The perceived time involved. People often perceive coaching as being time consuming. In reality, it does not usually take extra time and the long term benefits justify any time taken.
  • People think that they do not have the skills required to be a coach. They do usually have the skills, but do not necessarily use them.

On Reflection

For others who wish to take a similar approach to coaching, Bailey advises they "need to recognise that coaching takes many forms and means different things to different people". He also suggests that if possible, they maintain a good network with whom they can share advice and learning. Attaining the buy-in of senior representatives is also crucial.

He adds that as leader of coaching activity, or someone who is key to the initiative, you have to avoid "being an unhelpful policeman". Learners need to be allowed to learn in a supportive environment without feeling forced. It is important to be seen by others as "a valuable internal resource".

Looking back, there is nothing that he would have done differently, but he emphasises the importance of realising that you are always learning. With regards to the short and long term future, the plan is to build on what has already been achieved, focusing in particular on the role of performance manager as coach.

John Bailey concludes, "It is interesting to see how as you increasingly embed coaching into an organisation, just how many developmental needs are best met in this way and how much people appreciate being able to access help from others in continuing to be successful in their role in their career."

Source: Good Practice interview with John Bailey, Director of Coaching at KPMG, August 2003.


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