Building Great Places to Work

May 29. 2013

Guide to Mentoring in the Workplace

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May 29. 2013

Mentoring is becoming more commonplace in organizations, with employers using formal and informal mentors to aid in the development of their employees. In fact, 90% of NorthCoast 99 winners use informal mentoring and 59% use formal mentoring to develop top performers. As a result of mentoring's increasing popularity and the many benefits it offers in the workplace, we have developed a short guide that answers your common questions about mentoring in the workplace.

1.       Why offer mentoring?

Mentoring can be an extremely valuable development tool, especially for younger and less experienced employees, who tend to value and benefit more from mentoring. Mentoring provides a safe, mutually beneficial, and developmental one-on-one relationship for employees to openly discuss their challenges and receive advice and guidance from a seasoned professional.

While good mentoring can be a heavy investment of time, it is generally one of the least costly forms of employee development. Additionally, ERC’s research shows that employees who feel that they have a mentor at work are generally more satisfied and engaged. Mentoring can also help bridge generational gaps.

2.       Who is a mentor?

In most workplace mentoring relationships, a mentor is a senior level or top performing employee, ideally at least two levels above the mentee, though sometimes at the same level or at the next level. A mentor can be an internal employee or someone from outside of the organization. Although supervisors can be mentors or provide mentorship, generally a mentee does not report directly to a mentor.

3.       Who should be mentored?

Particularly in the case of formal mentoring relationships and depending on the availability of mentors, your organization may need to reserve mentoring for specific groups of employees such as high potential top performers, those enrolled in your leadership development program, certain levels of management, new-hires, or specific groups that need targeted development in your organization (such as females, young professionals, specific job types, etc.).

4.       What does a mentoring relationship look like?

A mentor usually aids a less experienced employee in their professional and career development. Mentoring relationships can take many forms in the workplace and commonly include:

  • Mentoring new-hires by providing on-boarding advice for a short period of time (i.e. 3-6 months, 1 year, etc.)
  • Mentoring with senior leaders as part of a leadership development program (e.g. 12 months)
  • Mentoring in relationship to a task, project, or stretch assignment
  • Formal mentoring relationships as part of a mentoring program (formally pairing mentors/mentees)
  • Informal mentoring relationships initiated by mentees and/or mentors

5.       How often should mentors meet with mentees?

Mentors meet with their mentee(s) regularly, usually at least quarterly or more often. The most common frequencies in which employees are reported to participate in mentoring are monthly and weekly (with monthly being the most common), according to our 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report.

Although mentoring relationships may only be short-term, as part of an organizational program or initiative, long-term mentoring tends to be more effective.

6.       What role should mentors have?  

Mentors should be valued advisors and support systems who help guide mentees by listening to their concerns and challenges; solving problems; giving advice based on their past experiences; suggesting development opportunities; building knowledge; and providing guidance and tips related to their career, work tasks, and challenges. They can also assist mentees in networking and connecting with other professionals; help guide employees as they work on stretch assignments and strategic projects; assist them in reaching developmental goals; or help them chart a career path.

The most effective mentoring relationships stem from mentors who volunteer to mentor and who seek a relationship with the mentee (versus formal or random matching). Nonetheless, pairing employees with mentors who have compatible styles or personalities can be effective if formal matching needs to occur.

7.       Should mentors and mentees have accountabilities?

Accountabilities are reasonable in formal mentoring relationships. Expecting that mentors will demonstrate specific behaviors and help the mentee attain certain results is certainly acceptable if there is a formal program intact. Examples of accountabilities can include meeting with the mentee at least once a month and helping them attain at least one development goal. Other ways you can hold mentors accountable is by evaluating the mentee’s satisfaction with his or her mentor periodically. Similarly, mentees should have goals they need to meet as part of the program or relationship if it's formal.


Mentoring is an extremely beneficial developmental tool that your organization should use to supplement its training and development strategies, and more and more employers of choice are using it to develop talent. Just be sure to follow these best practices to ensure that your mentoring program and/or mentoring relationships are effective.

May 1. 2013

12 New Ways to Refresh Your On-Boarding Program

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May 1. 2013

Is your organization looking for new and creative ideas to refresh and improve the ways in which it on-boards new-hires. Below are some ideas, based on our research of employers of choice, that you could consider incorporating into your on-boarding approach to make your new-hires’ experience more engaging, interactive, enjoyable, supportive, and welcoming.

  1. Orientation plans/checklists which detail specific orientation and on-boarding tasks, activities, and experiences that new-hires need to complete
  2. Welcome kits or packages that contain information, resources, and aids (checklists, templates, guides, organizational chart, etc.) to support the new-hire
  3. Interactive on-boarding games, activities, and presentations to enliven your traditional orientation program and add some fun components to the process
  4. Meet and greet events, breakfasts, or luncheons that allow new-hires to meet and network with one another and their coworkers (particularly if your organization has several new employees starting work at one time)
  5. Professional information about the new employee (profile, bio, etc.) and a photo of them that is distributed to your staff to familiarize them with the new staff member
  6. Office “maps” with employees’ names and photos
  7. Personal welcome gifts and touches such as gift baskets, flowers, gift cards, cards, notes, and calls
  8. Creative welcome signs/banners and decorations on the new-hire’s desk or in their work area
  9. A “go-to” person such as a mentor, “buddy,” coach, or on-boarding advisor with whom new-hires may ask questions, check-in, and access for help as they acclimate to the organization.
  10. On-boarding systems or online tools that streamline communication with new-hires, paperwork completion, benefits enrollment, and information related to orientation/training.
  11. Targeted new-hire “assimilation” training programs for new managers, emerging leaders, or common types of new jobs (account managers, nurses, social workers, etc.)
  12. Specific training, one-on-one/group meetings, orientation programs, or educational sessions with your CEO on big picture items (i.e. mission, vision, strategy, direction, core values, etc.)

Continuing to improve upon and freshen your on-boarding approach is important in engaging new employees, and many of these tactics have proven effective for employers of choice in strengthening their on-boarding programs, further supporting new-hires, and welcoming new employees into their organizations.


April 1. 2013

White Paper: Flexible Work - Trends & Best Practices

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April 1. 2013

The following white paper, based on analysis of the 2012 NorthCoast 99 winners, as well as national and local employers, explores trends in flexible work practices. Specifically, the white paper summarizes:

  • Overview of trends in flexible work
  • Research evidence: The business benefits of flexible work
  • What top talent wants: The case for flexible work and work/life balance
  • Best practices and examples of effective flexible work
  • Recommendations for implementing flexible work

Download the White Paper


March 18. 2013

Why Preferential Treatment of High Performers is Effective

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March 18. 2013

In the NorthCoast 99 program, we find that top employers typically provide preferential treatment to top performers. In general, our research finds that top performers are consistently given:

  • Higher pay increases
  • Higher bonuses and incentives
  • More training and development opportunities
  • High-profile projects and stretch assignments
  • Leadership development, coaching, and mentorship
  • Increased recognition and rewards
  • More flexibility in work schedule
  • Increased attention from senior leaders

While NorthCoast 99 winners aim to treat all employees with respect and as valued contributors in their respective organizations, their focus often is on giving preferred treatment to individuals who are driving organizational success and results. The basis for this preferential treatment is performance.

A recent study further confirms the positive benefits of this differential treatment. The study, published in the last year in the Journal of Business Ethics, finds that providing differential treatment to high performers for compensation, development, special assignments, coaching, and rewards and recognition may be beneficial. In the study, employees who were treated relatively better by a leader were more likely to experience heightened self esteem, follow workplace norms, and perform tasks that benefited their group.

The key, as the study found, is provide a baseline of respectful, fair, and consistent treatment to all employees, but differentiate rewards and opportunities to your top people. In addition, it's important to communicate what top performance means and how it can be achieved, to provide equal opportunities for all employees to attain this level of performance in the organization. This message will drive higher performance across your organization.

Source: Thau, C.T., Aquino, K., Pillutla, M., & De Cremer, D. (2012). Satisfying Individual Desires or Moral Standards? Preferential Treatment and Group Members' Self-Worth, Affect, and Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics.


March 11. 2013

NorthCoast 99 Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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March 11. 2013

The following document contains commonly asked questions and answers about the NorthCoast 99 Application process specifically related to registration, the application's questions, the new-hire and top performer surveys, reports, and more.

Download Applicaton FAQs

If you have additional questions, please contact or 440-684-9700.


March 5. 2013

Responsiveness to Job Applicants Affects Perceptions of Hiring Process

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March 5. 2013

Research is continuing to point to the importance of responding to job applicants and communicating with them at various steps in the recruiting hiring process.  

A new survey conducted by CareerBuilder shows that one in four job seekers reports having a poor experience when applying for a job. Specifically, responsiveness to job applicants is a major gap with three-quarters of job seekers saying they never heard back from the employer with which they applied for a job. Most also cited that their employer never let them know the decision after the interview.

Also, over a third of respondents indicated that their organization's representative did not present a positive experience and slightly fewer felt that the company representative seemed knowledgeable. Additionally, job seekers' negative experiences during the recruiting and hiring process seemed to affect their reactions and behaviors.

ERC's research in the NorthCoast 99 program shows that communication during the recruiting and hiring process is a factor that is core to candidate and new-hire experience. Based on data from hundreds of new-hires on their organizations' hiring, selection, and on-boarding practices in the 2012 NorthCoast 99 application process, numerous variables related to frequent updates and communication during the recruiting process strongly influenced participants' views of the organization and the hiring process. Additionally, new-hires who were more satisfied with their organization's hiring practices had more positive perceptions of their organization and work environment.

The conclusions we can draw from this research is that applicant and candidate experience are significantly important in influencing applicants' perceptions of an organization and their subsequent behaviors.


February 20. 2013

Local Top Workplaces Attract More Job Applicants

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February 20. 2013

Looking to attract a larger pool of applicants for your open positions? Both national and local research shows that organizations which are recognized as local great places to work receive more applicants per open position than employers recognized as great places to work nationally.

On average, NorthCoast 99 winners receive 62 applicants per open position. This compares to an average of 42 applicants per open position reported by the Great Place to Work Institute, based on the best places to work it recognizes. This suggests that NorthCoast 99 winners receive more applicants than best places to work nationally, and the value of local recognition as a top workplace in attracting talent.

Below is the average number of applicants reported by NorthCoast 99 winners across industries.

Average number of applicants by industry among NorthCoast 99 Winners

Health & Human Services 30
Manufacturing 64
Professional Services 76
Technology 47
Other Non-Profit Organizations 57
Other For-Profit Organizations 82

With increasing challenges in attracting skilled talent, gaining recognition as a top workplace has helped a number of organizations recruit top performers. Recognition as a top workplace has many advantages, most notably validating your workplace practices, culture, and environment to potential applicants; providing further marketing opportunities to brand your company as a great place to work; and helping your organization stand out or gain attention when seeking talent in a competitive job market.

For more information on recruiting trends and practices among these top workplaces, download our white paper "The Right Fit: How Top Employers Find the Perfect Candidate." Or, to start the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Application process and become recognized as a top employer in Northeast Ohio, visit

February 6. 2013

White Paper: The Right Fit: How Top Employers Find the Perfect Candidate

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February 6. 2013

The following white paper, based on detailed analysis of the 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners' recruiting practices, explores common and unique recruiting tools and practices of top employers. Specifically, the white paper summarizes:

  • Preferred recruiting tools of top employers
  • Unique and creative recruiting tools
  • Overlooked talent pools
  • The recruitment message
  • Is your recruiting working? Tips for measuring success

Download the White Paper


February 5. 2013

The 2013 NorthCoast 99 Application: What's New in 2013?

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February 5. 2013

We're now accepting applications for the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Award through April 19th! This year, our online application contains several new and improved features to save you time and make completing the application much easier!

Editing Past Responses

If you participated in 2012, the NorthCoast 99 application will now pre-populate your responses from last year! All you need to do is approve each of those responses, edit, and/or delete them. It's also easier than ever to paste from Word or Excel and format your answers inside of the application!

New Saving Features

The new application has saving features which automatically save your progress every 5 minutes as you are working on the application in case you forget to click "save progress." In addition, your company's application responses will be saved from year to year, beginning with responses submitted in 2012, saving you hours of time!

Downloading and Printing the Application

You can now download and print your application and responses at any time. Printouts have been enhanced as well, making reviewing your application much easier.

User Management

Each organization that applies for the NorthCoast 99 award will have one designated main contact. This individual will be responsible for submitting the application as well as inviting and managing users. The main contact may invite and remove users and assign them to edit or complete certain sections within the application.

Main Contact Changes

If your organization wants to change its main contact, it may change this individual within the application system.

Question Options

You have the option to view one question at a time ("Question View") or a list of all of the questions within the section ("List View"). Within these views, there are also several new features that allow you to easily track your progress in completing the application, including a progress bar.

Question Tips

This year, we've added helpful tips and additional information to help you respond to the questions in the application. These tips are included right next to each question within the application. Just hover over the icon at the end of the question.

Uploading Capabilities

The new application allows you to upload all of the policies required for the application process directly into the system versus emailing or mailing them to ERC.


Questions? Contact or 440/684-9700. Get started on your organization's application today at:

IMPORTANT: If your organization applied for the NorthCoast 99 Award in 2012, your organization already has an account set up in our application system as well as a main contact for the NorthCoast99 program, so you do not need to create a new account. You need only create an account if your organization did not register to apply for the NorthCoast 99 Award in 2012. If you are not sure if your organization already has an account, be sure to contact us at or 440/684-9700 before you register!


January 8. 2013

Resolutions to Transform Your Workplace in 2013

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January 8. 2013

Many workplaces are in need of a serious workplace transformation in 2013. They are fraught with employee problems, poor managers and leadership, high turnover, and an inability to attract and keep good talent. If these issues sound familiar, here are some resolutions you should to commit to in order to transform your workplace in 2013.

Make work/life balance a priority. Most organizations keep asking employees to do more with less (less pay, advancement opportunities, resources, training, etc.), but top performers eventually leave jobs that force them to make work a priority over their family or overwork them to the point that it strains their personal lives.

Give rewards that are long overdue. How many of your workers have not been given pay raises, not been recognized or rewarded adequately, and not given a promotion or new career opportunity in the last couple years? Make 2013 the year where you give back generously to your employees what they have given so openhandedly to your organization: their time, talents, and passion.

Get rid of punitive policies. Start treating employees like the adults they are. Eliminate workplace policies are that are too punitive, rigid, or over-involved. For example, start with your probationary period, attendance, paid time off, and progressive discipline policies. These are the usual culprits for policies that fail to create positive cultures. Plus, these policies usually make HR's job a lot harder.

Treat your employees better. Treat employees more fairly, considerately, and respectfully. Spend more time helping, supporting, and mentoring them. Communicate well and with decency. Recognize people when they do a good job and criticize them gently when necessary. If your managers can't do these things, send them to training or re-evaluate their performance.

Provide learning and growth. Top performers don't stay in jobs that are stagnant and unchallenging. They also don't respect managers who don't mentor them or encourage their learning and growth. You have a responsibility to care about your employees' growth and development into the best possible employees they can be. Start investing the time in helping them become better at what they do.

Give employees a voice. It's easy to make workplace decisions in a vacuum at the executive table, without considering the perspectives of your employees. Instead, this year, challenge yourselves to make decisions differently, with the help of your employees and especially top performers. For example, conduct an engagement survey, invite employees to a leadership meeting, or hold some focus groups.

As managers, leaders, and HR professionals, we have the opportunity, ability, and responsibility to make the workplace better for our employees and we can either resolve to do that in the new year or face continued workplace challenges. Fortunately, a new year can bring a new workplace, so long as your organization commits itself to some positive change.

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