The Coast Guard expands its mentoring program, and modernizes it with matching software

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Active duty, reserve and civilian members of the Coast Guard are beginning to take advantage of a newly expanded mentoring program. Besides one-on-one traditional mentoring, the new program has several other formats, such as one-time speed mentoring for specific issues. With more, the chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Leadership, Commander Julie Kuck, joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Commander Kuck, good to have you on.

Julie Kuck: Good morning, Tom. It’s great to be able to meet with you.

Tom Temin: This was launched just a few days ago. What is your grand goal here for this expanded mentorship program?

Julie Kuck: Our goal is to be able to evolve how we mentor and the Coast Guard to improve how our diverse workforce connects and grows in their careers to open up a world of diverse mentoring opportunities unavailable to our workforce before to how they connect and mentor across our diverse and amazing workforce.

Tom Temin: So you’ve had mentoring for a while What does the new program have that the old one did not have?

Julie Kuck: It uses mobile enabled software to connect our personnel across a globally deployed workforce. It uses four flexible mentoring options that enables people to engage and connect across Coast Guard communities and a completely customizable way that meets meets their individual needs and availability. It uses artificial intelligence that automates a Coast Guard connections and mentoring in real time.

Tom Temin: The software tool connects people that they might not otherwise know. What did it take to get all of the possible expertise into the system so that this whole thing when you want a connection, it will come up with someone that’s suitable?

Julie Kuck: That’s a great question. So it uses powerful AI that matches using different algorithms, using profile questions that really create a quality match for our different participants across our workforce, which is our total workforce solution using both our active duty, our reserve component and our civilian employees that they can enter their different demographics and their mentoring goals to really create a quality connection to have those matches that create what their mentoring needs are and their desires to meet the mentor of their choice, to be able to connect with anyone in the globe to have that ideal mentor for them, regardless if they’re stationed in the same location or across the globe for them.

Tom Temin: So it’s possible that with this AI that if you say I need mentoring in subject X, that person could be someone in uniform, it could be someone not in uniform, a civilian, or it could be a reservist. But the point is, it matches the skills that you need in mentoring more than rank and file type of measurements.

Julie Kuck: That is exactly true, we use many different dimensions. And it really puts a ball in the mentees court where they can, they can choose their mentor, it really puts up on the screen, the tool it gives the instantly creates that percentage of match for what your mentors in a bit database based on the profiles they filled out based on what their backgrounds are, what their career histories are, what leadership attributes, they feel they’re good at, what they can help others with what you feel are important and what you want to develop as a mentee. And it matches that up. There’s even some open fields that things like describes your best self to even further that quality of matching. to personalize the experience even further, we really want to have that personalized experience. And then the mentee can request a mentor base are from that. And then they can request that and a mentor can accept that. So it really, really can personalize its experience quite a bit, despite being on software.

Tom Temin: Got it. And there are four tracks in this mentoring program. Tell us what they are briefly and how they work.

Julie Kuck: Sure. We’re really excited about the flexibility, this is going to provide our service. The first is the one to one mentoring, which is your traditional program that you think of its formal tract. It’s a pairing, it’s a six month period where you have one mentor, one mentee, and you have that kind of formal relationship where you have kind of structured settings and meeting times where you meet that one to one relationship. And some people really, really value that as we want to make sure we offered that. The second one is a communities marketplace, which we have over 140 communities built for the Coast Guard, and that captures every single Coast Guard rating, every single career specialty and subspecialty and different affinity groups and ways people relate to each other. We’re really excited about that, that creates different circles for people. The third one is reverse mentoring. We know not all mentoring relationships is a senior person mentoring junior person, sometimes Junior people. And people that are new to the workforce may have something really innovative, they can help someone that’s a little bit more senior out. So we really want to be agile in our approach here. And the last one is that speed mentoring or that flash mentoring, which is really, I think a very powerful tool as well. When you’re coming up at decision point in your life. Specially in the service. We sometimes have things that come very quickly we need to make decisions on and I think that’s gonna be very powerful for our workforce as well.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Commander Julie Kuck. She’s chief of the Office of Leadership at the Coast Guard. And some of the materials regarding this program made reference to the diversity and inclusion plan that exists in the Coast Guard. Is there some way that the mentoring maps over to the diversity and inclusion plan?

Julie Kuck: It is. It’s actually a critical part of the diversity inclusion action plan. We have a really diverse workforce in both people’s backgrounds, our skill sets and the way we execute our missions across the Coast Guard, we have really unique authorities in the Coast Guard’s our mission sets, and the people we attract to our service, we have a very unique service. So this is really a crucial part of this. I mentioned the four different flexible mentoring tracks, the way we execute this and connect people within our communities is really going to be crucial to how we enact that we’ve been, we’re actually a line item. And as part of our diversity inclusion action plan to implement this, we have been partnered up with the diversity inclusion staff to implement this. And we meet with our affinity groups to make sure we are intertwined with their different efforts, because they do mentoring on a daily basis. And we want to help amplify the great work that they do.

Tom Temin: So the mentoring could be related to diversity and inclusion issues themselves, in other words.

Julie Kuck: It is it’s a great way to meet the needs of our workforce across the board.

Tom Temin: Alright. And some background research went into the design of this plan, of this mentoring plan. Tell us about some of that survey work that Coast Guard did.

Julie Kuck: The greatest asset in our workforce is our people. So we do many different surveys in the Coast Guard. And one of the ones we do is our organizational assessment survey. And our last one, over two thirds of our workforce said that they wanted more access to mentors. So we definitely want to respond to that need to our people so that we took that data very seriously. So that really spearheaded the development of this program. Additionally, we did a Rand women’s retention study in 2019. And increased access to mentors was a very, very loud theme that came out of that. So we definitely wanted to answer that call as well. So this response to both of those very strong points of research to build this program.

Tom Temin: And those that have put down in the system that they would like to be a mentor, do you do some kind of verification on those people to make sure that they’re suitable as mentors?

Julie Kuck: We have exceptional leaders in the Coast Guard. And the mentees, the ball is in the mentees court as far as who they select as mentors. So there’s profiles that go into the system. And the mentee can look at their profile so they can request who they are for searching that, and they are in our database, and they can do their request and see who the mentee, who the mentor is to their request. And they they make the choice there.

Tom Temin: And this only launched earlier in May. Do you have take up yet? And how will you measure that you’re successful with this new four track program?

Julie Kuck: We’ve had exceptional response, we have over 500 people registered in the program so far, in our first month, we’ve surpassed our initial goals. We’re very excited about the response of this for that and the the encouragement we’ve had from the people who’ve registered

Tom Temin: Sounds like you had interest in this all the way to the top at the commandant level.

Julie Kuck: We’ve had we’ve had exceptional leadership support. Mentoring is really an important part of our leadership development in the Coast Guard, which is why it’s being sponsored by the Office of Leadership. And we’ve had just incredible sponsorship all the way up to the command of the Coast Guard. And we’ve got just exceptional leadership support for this and endorsement through funding and through leadership champion that we’re exceptionally grateful for them be behind this.

Tom Temin: And is it too early to tell what sorts of subjects are the object of people’s desire for mentoring? Is there something in particular that a lot of people want or can you discern that trend yet?

Julie Kuck: We have not been able to do a trend analysis yet, but we just know that there’s a lot of interest in the program, which we’re very enthusiastic about.

Tom Temin: Alright. Commander Julie Kuck is chief of the Office of Leadership at the Coast Guard. Thanks so much for joining me.

Julie Kuck: Thank you very much Tom.

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