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High Potentials Mentoring: Viceroy Hotels

Chronus customer Roberto Vizcaino, Vice President of Learning & Development at Viceroy Hotel Group, joined us to discuss the processes and challenges of developing a high potentials mentoring program. We’ve provided an edited transcript of the interview for your convenience.

Why High Potentials Mentoring?

Aya: Hi, this is Aya at Chronus. I’m a customer success manager and today I have Roberto Vizcaino, Vice President of Learning and Development at Viceroy Hotels. Roberto has been with us for the past year running a high potentials mentoring program for future leaders of the hotels Viceroy plans to open up. Today we have a few minutes of his time to ask him about his program, the design of it, the decisions around it, and what he’s learned over the past year.

Your challenge was to design a program for developing Viceroy’s high potentials. How did you decide that a mentoring program was the right choice?

Roberto: We thought a mentoring program would be the right choice for us because we’re a very diverse company with a lot of potential. We thought it would be great to be able to use the existing talent we have at Viceroy to help us develop the future leaders of our organization.

Measuring Program Success

Aya: When you were developing this program, you came to us with a really robust plan for how you were going to make this happen. And one thing we don’t see very often is the success metrics you came with. How did you go about deciding you needed to do that, and how did you select the metrics that you did?

Roberto: When we were planning this program, the first thing we said was, “Okay, who is going to be the mentors? We currently have 25 mentors working in the program and we hope to engage 15-20 next year. All of them are either general managers of hotels or other vice presidents from our corporate office. Their time is very expensive so we needed to maximize and demonstrate a return on investment on this initiative. We said to ourselves, “Well, this is our program. We want to be able to develop our talent pool at Viceroy and the way we’re going to measure it is through those metrics.”

Aya: So having gone through this program, can you highlight two or three of the metrics you’ve chosen within the past year?

Roberto: We’re still at a very early stage. What we’ve done during the first year is to test the program to see which processes are working, see whether the assumptions we had when we wrote the program were right, etc. One of our crucial metrics is retention of the group of mentees we have. If we’re not able to retain those mentees, that means we’re doing a lousy job. If you have high potentials and you’re going to invest time and development and money in them, you better retain them. If not, there is something very wrong.

We also want to be able to measure the promotion trends of Viceroy. Participating in this program doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to get a promotion, but we do want to provide participants with opportunities when they are available and see if they’re ready to jump into those positions. Of course there are many variables for something like that, but that’s something that we’re going to measure.

Selecting Mentors for High Potentials Mentoring

Aya: You had mentioned that selecting your mentor population was really key. So – how did you select your mentor population? And how did you go about recruiting them?

Roberto: I’m currently based in Dubai, so I did a webinar to all of our general managers around the world. Our CEO presented the webinar, and in that webinar we had all of the executive committee members from every hotel, as well as the leadership team from corporate.

I explained the program, told them what we wanted to do, and the last question before ending the presentation was, “Would you like to join us?” Everybody was very energized and very eager. Immediately, I had people sending me messages that said, “I want to be a part of this.” It was so great to see how they were responding to the initiative. The caliber of people who are mentoring really make the mentoring program credible.

Aya: I remember back when we were scheduling this meeting to present it to leadership, we kept pushing it back by a couple of weeks because you wanted the CEO to be the person who presented the program. And that goes in line with what we talk about in our Planning & Designing guidance [link to webinars] that we provide: the importance of executive sponsorship and how the culture of participating in mentorship comes in large part from high-level leadership. It’s interesting to see that confirmed.

Mentoring to Aid Business Objectives

Roberto: When we started to design this mentoring program, it was fulfilling one of the CEO’s expectations. His vision is to double the size of the company in the next five to six years, and his vision is to develop from within, so this project is going to help us. Obviously, he embraced the program because it’s giving an answer to the needs of the company.

So I think if you create a mentoring program, it’s a cool thing for you – but if it’s not really linked to your business needs, then it’s going to be difficult to have sponsorship from senior leadership. But when your program comes from a real business need, then I think it’s easier to get that sponsorship.

Aya: You invested pretty heavily into participant training – both mentee training and participant skillsets. Tell us more about what drove this decision. Did it have the impact you expected?

Roberto: I knew we had all these mentors who wanted to be a part of this program. Everybody was excited and enthusiastic but I didn’t want to just throw them in and say, “Okay, thank you for joining the program, tomorrow you’ll start and this is your mentee. Good luck!” I thought, we have to create a framework and provide some tools they can use with the mentees. So we partnered with the NeuroLeadership Institute to develop our mentors.

We had different levels of mentors. We had people who had already been mentors in a different company, or we had first-time mentors. So for both, the experience was very good because for some, it was, “Wow, thanks because that tells me how to refresh and brush up my skills on mentoring.” And for others, it was “Thank you so much because now I have more instruction and I know how to start my conversations.” We didn’t have the time or resources to do a huge training, but we did give our mentors the basic tools to start a conversation that will help develop the mentee.

Participant Feedback & Expectations

Aya: So what feedback have you gotten from program participants this year, and what have you learned after this first year?

Roberto: With the mentoring training, I think I wouldn’t change anything except perhaps differentiate a little bit better who needs the training or not – that’s one learning experience.

For the biggest learning experience, well, we focused a lot on the software, the program, the framework. We focused a lot on the mentors and their development. But we didn’t put enough thought in the most important person in the program, which is the mentee.

I think we have to do better around this in the next group, which will happen in the next couple of weeks. My assumption was, we are doing it for them, they should be grateful, they should love it, and what do you want, a fantastic software? Come on, we have a great program!

And it is a great program but I we should do a better job with them in setting up expectations and involving their manager. We did a focus group with mentors and mentees, and if you talk to the mentees they will tell you, “I don’t want my manager involved, but I like having my manager keeping me accountable. Like, I have certain objectives with my mentor, and my manager can say, ‘Okay, what are your goals and what are you going to work on? How can I support you further from my position?’”

Aya: That’s really interesting because one of the things we hear about in traditional talent development initiatives is that the single biggest determinant of whether you’re going to change your behavior as a result of training is whether your manager supports that change in behavior. So the fact that that’s equally applicable to something like a software program is interesting to me.

Roberto: Yes, I think it has to be that way – the participation of the manager helps greatly.

Aya: So what’s next for these high potentials?

Roberto: Well, not all of them are going to be promoted. But at Viceroy, we see mentoring as another tool we have to develop managers. It’s another element we have in our resource library to help these people thrive. We have many opportunities being created at Viceroy and our high potentials are the first ones we’ll reach out to.

We are going to have some exciting openings soon in Dubai and San Francisco and more to come. We’re going to say to them, “What about Dubai, which is thousands of miles away from home. Would you like to do it?” It’s going to depend on them. But our objective is that they’re going to be ready to say, “Yes.”

Next Steps for Viceroy’s High Potentials Mentoring Program

Aya: We touched on this briefly but as a final closing thought, what will you do differently for the next cohort of mentors and mentees?

Roberto: What I would do differently is to work better with the mentees. We need to make sure that we select the right people, that we clarify expectations with them and they know what is happening. They need to be very clear that they’re driving the process.

We said this at the beginning of the mentoring program but in the future we’re going to emphasize it more – our general managers are running millions of dollars in operations. They probably aren’t going to worry about chasing a mentee. The mentee has to chase the GM. So that’s one thing.

We’re going to continue the development of our mentors – the continuation of the training we started because we created a great foundation. We might want to increase the follow-ups on how people are updating the software. From the admin side, it’s very useful to see how healthy our program is, how often they meet, how often they interact. As well, I like the participants to see the power that this software has when you are able to have your goals there and your tasks.

Aya: That’s all the questions we had. Is there anything you would like to cover as well?

Roberto: I think we have covered everything, actually. No, I’m good. Thank you.

Aya: Well Roberto, thank you for your time. Again, this has been with Roberto Vizcaino of Viceroy Hotels. Thank you.

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