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IBM Reinvents Mentoring, Via the Web

IBM's new program, a sort of Craigslist for connecting with mentors across the globe, has earned kudos from HR experts

It may be time-tested, but there's something uninspiring about the corporate mentoring protocol, wherein a seasoned veteran gets assigned to impart wisdom to an ambitious young talent. IBM (IBM) is putting a fresh spin on the practice by democratizing its mentoring program. As of January, the company began empowering employees to reach across its global empire with the click of a button for advice on everything from preparing for a promotion to learning how to innovate.

The changes reflect the company's effort to become a truly global enterprise that relies on cross-border information- sharing and collaboration. "It became obvious that we had to make mentoring a tool for transferring knowledge globally," says Sheila Forte-Trammell, an IBM human resources consultant who helped launch the initiative.

Any IBM employee can now sign up to give or receive advice by filling out a profile in a Web-based employee directory called BluePages. Think of it as for mentoring. In less than two months, 3,000 people have joined.

Jocelyn Koh McDowell, a 22-year IBM veteran who lives in Houston, sought a mentor who could give her detailed advice on how to qualify for a promotion. Using a Web search tool, she found the right person in minutes: Lisa Squires, a 13-year veteran in Sacramento who oversees a technology certification program McDowell needs to complete. "She had even more experience than I was looking for," says McDowell.

IBM's program earns praise from experts. Belle Rose Ragins, a human resource management professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, says IBM has "broken new ground in using the Internet to develop global relationships."

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Hamm is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York and author of the Globespotting blog.

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