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Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Boosts Knowledge Sharing Through Career Mentoring Program


“Because the organization as a whole was fairly new to mentoring in this way, we didn’t have the materials and were looking for some guidance and some guide rails. So we really wanted a software program that was going to guide [participants] through the process and make it really clear. The connection plans have been great for that guidance.”

-Kim Stege, IT Service Desk Manager and mentoring program administrator, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Company Mentorship Builds Employee Culture

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is a collection of distinctive wine estates across Washington, Oregon, California, and globally that provides high standards of quality wine. To build greater networks of employee support across the many individual brands across multiple locations, Ste. Michelle turned to mentoring, establishing a formal career mentoring program. Ste. Michelle wanted a formal program that would scale to more locations and more employees—everyone from the warehouse and the gift shop to the wine makers and marketing team.

“It quickly became an initiative that people saw the value of throughout the company,” said Kim Stege, IT Service Desk Manager and mentoring program administrator. “One of the things that I think people that are new to Ste. Michelle find is there’s a lot of tribal knowledge, and, so it’s that tribal knowledge that I think is so valuable to help people navigate the culture here and to get comfortable. I think that’s where mentoring comes in so well: just being able to tap those people that have knowledge of the culture and the industry and really spread that wealth around.”

The mentoring program reinforces Ste. Michelle’s String of Pearls philosophy that each estate makes up a pearl along the connective string that is Ste. Michelle. By empowering employees to seek career advancement and supportive connections with other employees regardless of location, each individual estate shines brighter, illuminating the employee culture across all of Ste. Michelle.

The formal career mentoring program allows employees to break down departmental silos and share knowledge with each other across locations and job functions. It has helped to increase employee engagement, and create a better foundation for colleague collaboration.

The Challenge: Building Structure Into Mentoring Program

The early days of brainstorming around the mentoring program were focused on getting the right structure and software to sustain the initiative. The idea of running a manual program with participants in various parts of the country seemed like a nightmare for matching mentors and mentees. Ste. Michelle admins needed to be able to automate the matching process across all the locations, and guide the mentorships once they were initiated. Many of the mentoring program participants were new to mentoring relationships, and were uncertain of how to initiate or progress the relationship. All of the information and interactions also had to be tracked. Data needed to be wrangled and simplified in a way that didn’t add hours to the admins’ days.

“We wanted to make sure it was easy for participants to find a mentor, and even think outside the box when it came to mentorship and who could be their mentor,” said Kim Weed, Senior Manager of Organizational Development and Compliance. “Having no structure whatsoever, we needed a platform that provided that kind of guidance for how to proceed.”

With limited admin bandwidth, Ste. Michelle knew software could help ease the time constraints on admins’ schedules, allowing them to run the program and also focus on their objectives.

The Answer: Chronus Software For Career Mentoring

With a structured system and easy-to-use matching component in mind, Ste. Michelle started a widesearch for the right mentoring software. Weed and Stege wanted a vendor that would help scale the program’s reach and illustrate best practices and tips for a successful program. Ste. Michelle chose Chronus because they were willing to offer a step-by-step implementation road map that made the program setup manageable, and software that was easy to use for the participants.

“Because the organization as a whole was fairly new to mentoring in this way, we didn’t have the materials and were looking for some guidance and some guide rails,” said Stege. “So we really wanted a software program that was going to guide [participants] through the process and make it really clear. The connection plans have been great for that guidance.”

The resource center articles helped mentors and mentees to start off on the right foot and keep their relationships moving forward productively. The approachable user experience made Stege and Weed confident employees across the company could engage in the program with little training or instruction. Most of all, the automated user onboarding gave the admins time to maintain a high-functioning program while attending to their other duties.

“This is not our full time jobs as administrators of the program,” Weed said. “So it’s helped us tremendously to not have to field issues with software because there really haven’t been any.”

The easy to run software made it possible for the admins to focus their time on staying on top of other program aspects like program adoption, participation, and engagement.

Chronus Software Fuels Impactful Mentoring Relationships

Identifying good matches and tracking the progress of mentorships keeps Ste. Michelle’s career mentoring program thriving. Favorite Chronus features include:

  • MatchIQ® Technology. The smart algorithm enables mentors and mentees to find the best match, while giving Stege and Weed the control to customize the matching criteria. They can ensure supervisors aren’t being matched with their direct employees, and they can keep matches within the same job function, level, or department.
  • Comprehensive Profiles. The profiles create rich profiles that intelligentlly match mentors and mentees. Importing participant information and creating user profiles is fast and easy with LinkedIn integration, reducing the workload for end users when they join the program.
  • Robust Tracking and Reporting. The reports provide real-time data, insights, and helpful feedback.

This makes it easy for the admins to assess program health, improve the program, and share results with organizational stakeholders.

What Success Looks Like

Integrating Chronus software propelled Ste. Michelle’s program expansion. The use of software allowed the admins to build out an initial pilot program of 70 participants, launch the first cohort of mentorships at Chateau Ste. Michelle, and then double the program to more than 250 participants across the winery collection, encompassing employees from across 70 estates. What would have taken much more time to scale and maintain manually, they were able to do in a year and a half with Chronus.

Chronus’ automated surveys allowed participants to provide quick and timely feedback on the state of the program. Stege and Weed used that feedback to make sure the program was living up to employees’ expectations. The surveys reported 93 percent felt satisfied or very satisfied with the program. Furthermore, a majority achieved all of the goals they set for the mentoring connection. Stege says this kind of engagement is a telling sign of the impact of the program.

“One of the things that I’m seeing with the impact of the mentoring program is people coming out of their shells in a lot of places,” Stege said. “They’re more confident and they’re bolder, feeling more engaged in our company. It’s building connections not even just between the relationships, it’s building connections with people having this shared experience in our company.”

Working with the Chronus customer success team made the process of launching a mentoring program collaborative. Ste. Michelle relied on their customer success manager’s expertise to learn best practices for everything from enrolling participants in the program to spurring greater enrollment of new participants from across the employee pool.

“The service from the get go has been just phenomenal,” Weed said. “From the start, it felt like we were a partner before we even contracted with Chronus. And that for me, those vendor relationships, are really important. They helped hold our hands through this process.”

Ste. Michelle’s mentoring program helped employees integrate with the culture of the company. The broad reach of the program allowed an increase of participants to share knowledge of workplace operations, advance in skill development, and grow closer together as a Ste. Michelle community.

“For me, it was very helpful to get accustomed to the culture, and make us more cohesive as a company,” said David Rosenthal, a member of the mentoring program. But, I think it’s just a great opportunity to get to know more people in the company. Knowing people and building those relationships makes everybody’s job easier and makes us more of a family and less of just a place to come to work. I think that that’s the value in the program.”

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