UC Davis’s approach to mentoring program is unique in that it features group mentoring; each mentor counsels up to four mentees. This structure has allowed the Group Mentoring Program (GMP) to serve more than 250 employees from UC Davis and UC Davis Health in only four years. The GMP consists of three large-group meetings — an introduction, strengths workshop and closing celebration — as well as six small group monthly meetings between the mentor and their mentee group. All mentors receive a GMP “playbook,” for the small group meetings, which include chartering documents, monthly agendas and career development articles. This year’s GMP included 15 mentee groups.

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“Both mentors and mentees report that they have met new people and increased their professional network,” said UC Davis Health Senior Training Analyst Judyth Isaman.

“Mentors report that the GMP has enabled them to use and develop key leadership competencies and provided them with professional growth and personal satisfaction. Mentees share that the GMP provides a confidential sounding board for ideas and challenges, and that it has enabled next steps in their career path by leveraging the expertise of their mentor and other mentees.” 

According to Isaman, mentorship programs have played a critical role in boosting staff engagement. She shared an image of a word cloud (shown at the top of this webpage), demonstrating the results of an “Old Shoes/New Shoes” exercise that the 2019 GMP cohort participants created during their closing celebration. “Old Shoes” are words they used to describe their careers before participating in the GMP and “New Shoes” represent their feelings after.

The difference is dramatic. Under “Old Shoes,” the most popular words participants used were “stuck,” “confused,” “stagnant” and “limited.” Under “New Shoes,” “confident,” “hopeful” and “encouraged” rise to the foreground. (This exercise was inspired by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources during the campus’ mentorship program collaboration.)

“Based on our surveys, mentees say that through the GMP, UC Davis and UC Davis Health have demonstrated a commitment their professional development,” Isaman said. “Gallup, Gartner and other sources also report that one of the key ingredients contributing to employee engagement is an organization’s commitment to development opportunities. Engaged employees are positive, creative and successful. In turn, an organization has less turnover, retains more great employees and is more productive and profitable.”

“As an academic institution offering a mentoring program, we are saying to our employees, ‘You are important to us. Stay with us. Grow your career with us,’” she says.