DMA Mentoring Program kicks off at meet and greet event

Virginia Department of Military Affairs state employees meet with potential mentors during a meet and greet event Feb. 20, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The event kicked off the new DMA Workforce Development Mentoring Program, aimed at helping state employees reach their full potential and to ensure the department has employees ready to fill future leadership positions. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — A new program designed to help Virginia Department of Military Affairs state employees improve their leadership skills and learn from existing leaders officially kicked off Feb. 20, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. 

The DMA Workforce Development Mentoring Program is a new effort to help DMA employees reach their full potential and to ensure the department has employees ready to fill future leadership positions. During the kickoff event, all registered mentees were able to meet with each registered mentor for a few minutes at a time. The goal of the event was ultimately to match up each mentee with the right mentor for their individual needs. 

The mentors in the program range from existing DMA managers and department heads to retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, the DMA Chief Operations Officer. Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, will also serve as a mentor. 

“Today is a culmination of about 14 months of work,” explained Mercer. “Today is the meet and greet where everybody that expressed an interest in being a mentor and everybody that wanted to be a mentee will get five minutes together and rotate around. The mentees will make their top three picks for their mentor, then we’re going to meet later and try to match people up as best we can.” 

Mercer explained that the idea for a mentoring program came from a couple of factors, including state employee input and research on the existing DMA team of leaders. 

“This mentoring program was really created for two primary reasons. One was our surveys really showed an ask by the state staff, that they wanted some kind of mentoring program or leader development for future opportunities,” said Mercer. “The second part is we did some analysis during strategic planning and we realized that a pretty significant percentage of our state workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next few years. So, from a practical perspective, we wanted to build a bench and start looking, so people could start thinking “Hey, I could do that job.’”

More than 30 mentors, mentees and staff participated in the kickoff event, designed to help pair mentees with the appropriate mentor for their needs. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

Once the need was established, the program was developed and designed by a workforce development working group led by retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tim White, the DMA instructor and trainer. That group met frequently to come up with the design for the program, borrowing heavily from existing and successful programs at other organizations, including the University of Virginia.

White said the initial meet and greet event was as successful as he hoped it would be. 

“The goal of our program is to promote and facilitate a professional mentorship and emerging leadership program,” said White. “With this event and the participation of over 30 mentors, mentees and staff, I feel that the start of this program was a big success at all levels.”

The current goal is to have a new set of mentor and mentee partnerships each year. Once the partnerships are chosen, each mentor and mentee will meet at least once a month to discuss career goals, experiences and guidance. 

“How they do it is really up to the mentor and the mentee,” said Mercer. “The goal will be at the end of this year, we’ll see some growth, some networking, and more healthy, forward-leaning organization.”

The program is designed to be beneficial to the mentors as well. According to the programs’s guidelines, mentors should benefit from a renewed enthusiasm for their role as an expert, as well as improving their skills in coaching, counseling and listening. 

At the end of the year, the working group will evaluate the programs successes and challenges in an effort to make the next year’s mentor and mentee partnerships even more successful. 

“We want them to have a year with their mentor to build that relationship,” said Mercer. “We’ll get them to give us some feedback at the end of the year, we’ll tweak it a little bit, then we’ll run another program next year.”

Any DMA state employee  interested in becoming a future mentee or mentor can find more information at: https://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/dma/Pages/mentor.aspx