7. Critical Risks, Problems, and Assumptions


Contents

7.1 Relationships with Partnering Agencies and the Operating Environment
7.1.1 Employer
7.1.2 Unions
7.1.3 Job Placement Agencies
7.2 Program Implementation
7.2.1 Marketing to New Employees
7.2.2 Recruiting Mentors
7.2.3 Mentor-mentee Relationship and Retention
7.3 Expansion and Replication
7.3.1 Program Expansion within Initial Employer
7.3.2 Replicating our Model

Inherent in any new venture plan are certain assumptions and risks. To mitigate these problems, the Hub will try to be aware of these assumptions and risks from the beginning, build-in evaluation and feedback mechanisms (for mentors, mentees, and employers), and respond flexibly and creatively, with a mind for ever-improving the quality and success of our program. In particular, flexibility will be important in tailoring services as much as possible to each individual participant.

With that in mind, we have composed a list of assumptions we will make and potential problems that may occur during the course of venture execution and, where possible, how we will address these problems as they surface.

7.1 Relationships with Partnering Agencies and the Operating Environment

7.1.1 Employer

The success of Hub rests in the relationship between the Hub and those in the operating environment. The Hub seeks to work through the employer directly, while maintaining a certain level of autonomy, both financially and as an operating entity.

As previously delineated, the Hub's employees seek to work closely with multiple departments within Human Resources to develop a site-specific mentoring program and community. Since the Hub relies on present staff of the employer as an integral part of the marketing process and overall success in creating a mentoring community, the Hub must establish at the beginning its relationship to the employer and a good-faith relationship with all involved.

The program will need to work hard to establish this relationship, and and ease qualms over the Hub's status as an 'outside' organization, working within the employing agency's structure.

To ease such tensions and to prevent conflict over the Hub's employees from having to sacrifice their autonomy within the program, the Hub must establish a shared set of boundaries, values and mission with the employer, and ensure the employer is genuinely interested in participating at all levels of the program, and have a vested interest in the venture's success.

7.1.2 Unions

We assume that existing labor unions will (at worst) not interfere and (at best) be willing participants in all stages of the venture, including startup, implementation, and growth. However, we recognize there are several program aspects that labor unions might oppose. First, the Hub will be asking workers, albeit voluntarily, to perform extra duties for no extra pay. Secondly, we will be offering workers an alternate internal organization and helping them gain access to job employment benefits; this may be considered usurping union responsibilities. And finally, since our venture will be a management-led operation, unions may feel threatened by management having a direct influence on existing workers.

A solution would be to incorporate the Union from the beginning as an informal partner. In the best case scenario, by ensuring the union understands the Hub's mission and values, the Hub may leverage the knowledge the union has about those it represents with the power of the Hub, to take advantage of resources that the union seeks to ensure access for its members. In the worst case, the Hub seeks simply a non-confrontational relationship with existing labor unions, which hopefully may be averted as the Hub is emphatically a non-political organization whose activities should not intersect with those of local unions.

7.1.3 Job Placement Agencies

The role of job placement agencies is limited to marketing, however this is nonetheless a vital role in the start-up of the Hub. Having already spoken with Springboard Forward, who shares the values of the Hub, we are confident that we have a foot in the door. Though ideally job placement agencies referring clients to the Hub would share the mission and values of the Hub, it is only necessary in the long run marketing plan that they find enough of a respect for the success of the Hub to view it as a good program to which to refer their clients.

7.2 Program Implementation

7.2.1 Marketing to New Employees

Convincing new employees to join the venture may be difficult, particularly since the benefits to participants will initially be intangible and hard to quantify. This may be compounded by issues of language, communication, and personality barriers. Our venture may run the risk of being seen as an add-on to partner agencies' existing programs and services, essentially 'one more thing' to do during the terribly busy period of initial employment.

The marketing strategy has addressed many of these issues already, as it is the loss of benefits due to language, literacy, scheduling and other barriers that the Hub seeks to remedy. It is through the Hub's flexibility, the nature of the Hub as a constantly self-re-evaluating program that the Hub's staff will ensure not to fall into these same traps that it seeks to disarm.

7.2.2 Recruiting Mentors

The benefits to mentors - learning about the full range of benefits available through one's employer, improving interpersonal skills which may lead to advancement, the satisfaction of 'making a difference' and 'giving back' - are essentially intangible, which makes attracting mentors extremely difficult. The marketing strategy addresses this issue, however there is always the risk that those we are marketing to have no interest or time to become mentors. In such a case, it may become necessary to look to a different pool of mentors, whether it be a different set of employees, students in the case of a university, or volunteers from the local community. In such a case, the mentoring relationship would be fundamentally different, and the Hub would have two alternatives. On one side, this alternative set of mentors may be viewed as temporary, and once the incentives of a mentoring community become clear mentors may be recruited from the initial targeted group. On the other, the mentoring relationship could be fundamentally altered. Such a relationship would require extensive research into alternative relationships, and the Hub would in itself become something of a working experiment to determine how this relationship might work. Were the employer amenable to such an 'experiment' the Hub might discover something entirely new; were the employer unamenable, the Hub would be forced to examine what did not work, and move on to a different employer or an alternate marketing strategy.

7.2.3 Mentor-mentee Relationship and Retention

Time will be a particular problem, and we may run into several problems on this subject. First we are seeking to do an enormous amount in very little time. As previously mentioned, especially at the outset, we will have a matter of a few weeks to a few months to recruit mentees, establish a mentor-mentee relationship, and facilitate a slew of benefit program choices on the part of the employee.

The Hub will have to be extremely efficient at administering each of the above, and mentor training must also teach mentors with a high level of efficiency about benefits and ways to develop relationships. There will be obstacles along the lines of individual preferences, and matching mentor/mentee schedules, and individual preferences, and the program will attempt to ameliorate these impediments on a case-by-case basis.

We assume that the mentor/mentee relationship will be beneficial for participants in both short term and over a longer time, and that participants will want to continue voluntarily. BUT, should a relationship fail (for any reason), we risk losing credibility and support among partner agencies and potential mentors/mentees. Our on-site staff members should be able to add the necessary value to the relationship, deal with any relationship issues and mediate conflicts, and keep in touch with program participants.

Maintaining interest can be solved by the proposed expansion and individualization of the program using different 'modules' for each mentee as described in the Program Design, and it will be the role of continuous feedback and evaluation to ensure that Hub is addressing the situations, desires, and needs of its clients. Additionally, the Hub will hold events and outings convenient for entire families, and these will assist in maintaining participation, and belief in the core values of the Hub's program.

7.3 Expansion and Replication

7.3.1 Expansion within the Initial Employer

In the long term, we run the risk that a "mentoring culture" will fail to emerge; recruiting new mentors from the employer might become more difficult over time. We also risk running out of viable candidates (mentors or mentees) or having an oversupply of either (i.e., more interested mentees than we can handle).

The Hub assumes that with continuous feedback and empathetic Hub staff and clients that such a failure may be averted before it becomes one. By asking the right questions, and with support of the employer as mentioned above, the Hub hopes that it will be able to avert any crises associated with expanding too slowly or too quickly.

7.3.2 Replicating our Model

We assume that partner agencies will be interested in expansion (internal and external) or our venture. The venture should work to establish a positive image, and to do so, word of mouth, and other means of advertising will be critical to the venture's expansion success and momentum.

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