Making mentorship work at Telus – A conversation with Cindy LaPorte

TELUS is Canada’s fastest-growing national telecommunications company, with more than 43,000 employees. The Company provides a wide range of communications products and services, including wireless, data, Internet protocol (IP), voice, television, entertainment and video, and is Canada’s largest healthcare IT provider. TELUS has been a strong supporter of IEC-BC’s MentorConnect program since its inception.  Cindy Laporte, People and Culture Manager at TELUS in Edmonton, was instrumental in launching the Company’s mentorship program.  We sat down with Cindy to discuss how TELUS has benefited from its relationship with IEC-BC.

How did TELUS get involved with IEC-BC’s MentorConnect program?

I chair the Board for the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC). Around the same time ERIC was getting set up, so were other Immigrant Employment Councils across Canada.  Toronto was the main group everyone was working with.  We initially ran a mentorship pilot program in Edmonton and Toronto.  Once we were successful in implementing those programs within TELUS, we branched out to IEC-BC and IECs in other cities in 2013.

How many TELUS employees have been involved in the MentorConnect program?

Since we’ve been involved with IEC-BC in the MentorConnect program, we’ve had a total of 81 TELUS employees volunteer as mentors, and about 50 have been matched with mentees.

Why is mentorship important to TELUS?

It’s an opportunity for TELUS to give back to the community and support new Canadians as part of our diversity and inclusiveness program. It also increases our employee engagement.  From our team members’ perspective, mentorship helps support our TELUS values to give where we live.  It gets us out in the community. And it also helps us focus on what can learn from the multicultural community.  What can we do within our business to help support the multicultural community? When we’re volunteering in the community, we’re also speaking and interacting with our customers. It’s a great opportunity to hear from our customers and determine what we can do differently to meet their needs.

What benefits has TELUS realized from its involvement in MentorConnect?

Mentorship programs like MentorConnect provide a lot of personal growth and development opportunities for employees. We present mentorship to our team leaders as a great way for them to build their coaching and leadership skills.  If they have a team member that they’re trying to grow into a position or take on a role as part of a succession plan, it’s a good way for them to get some coaching and mentoring experience.  So mentorship aligns very well with career development plans and opportunities to build leadership skills.

How do the mentees benefit from the MentorConnect program?

We’ve had a couple of success stories in Vancouver where mentees were actually hired by TELUS. We have such a great network of people with a wealth of experience at TELUS.  Our mentors are able to provide new Canadians with direction on how to improve their resumes, enhance their interview skills and help connect them with business people in the Lower Mainland. It’s really about helping mentees build a network so they can be successful. We know that it isn’t the mentor’s responsibility to find them employment, but the passion our people bring to the table and the genuine desire to help new Canadians succeed has resulted in situations where we’ve introduced mentees to positions that were available and they have been successful in becoming a TELUS team member.

What kind of support or tools did IEC-BC provide you with as part of the MentorConnect program?

IEC-BC was great to work with. They’re so helpful in providing guidance and support for the program. All the information they provide from the mentor handbook and the online resources is extremely useful. Many of the people involved in the program are new mentors and don’t really know where to start, so having these resources available is tremendously important to their growth and development. IEC-BC was also very good about attending our open houses for new mentors and providing coaching when required.  When mentors have questions, IEC-BC staff make themselves available so both mentors and mentees get the most out of the program. It’s really been a great partnership for us.

Would you recommend the MentorConnect program to other companies?

Absolutely. It’s a constant challenge in business today to find enough time to dedicate to the development of employees.  Mentorship is a way for companies to get involved on a big or a small level. It’s a great way for companies to access key talent in the market, help grow and develop their internal team members, and give back to the community. And it gives employees a purpose as well. So I think any company small or large can really benefit from being a member of the MentorConnect program.

Any advice or tips you would offer other companies considering introducing a mentorship program?

My number one tip is try to get that buy-in from the top early.  You really need a sponsor that’s willing to help you move the message through the various groups or business units within your company. The way I initially had to do this was very much from the bottom up, so it took us a while to get that foothold in the company before everyone recognized the value. But now that we have the program in place, there’s a lot of momentum.  So if you can get that executive sponsorship and buy-in early from people in a senior leadership position, it will really help you to drive that message, get people involved in and committed to the program.

Once the program is underway, it really comes down to sharing information, being available, communicating about the program and working closely with your IEC so they can support you.  You don’t have to do it all on your own. IEC staff can provide a lot of support in helping you get the mentorship program launched. It’s not a cookie cutter approach. Every company is different, but an IEC will be able to cite best practices and let you know what has and hasn’t worked for other companies.  Even within TELUS across the five cities where we have mentorship programs in place, we have one city that struggles a bit getting mentors. So they’re trying something different with their IEC. It really comes down to being flexible and adaptable to making a mentorship program work.