Members of each group used the social software to connect with one another, to figure out discussion topics, such as developing a personal brand and work/life balance, and to share documents or articles that pertained to their discussion threads.
"I do feel that they're more connected," Morris said. "Just having the opportunity, not just to speak with other women sharing the same struggles, but to have the chance to hear from a female executive was really valuable. The women were really excited about that. The mentors enjoyed it as well. They felt they learned a lot from the other women."
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, noted that social networks can easily help employees feel connected with their co-workers.
"If the workers are, by their job situation, isolated, I think social platforms can be very effective in building group cohesion," he said. "There's nothing necessarily artificial about relationships mediated by networks."
Gottheil also noted that using social networks to build connections can save a company a lot of money. Workers can log in rather than buying pricey plane tickets to fly to meetings. And if employees feel more connected with one another, the company might see a decline in turnover and would therefore save money on rehiring and retraining new people.
"In terms of building up real relationships among people who are far apart most of the time, social platforms are not only cheaper, but they're more effective," he noted.
Both Morris and Ebert said they haven't fully calculated the benefits of the program. Early numbers, according to Morris, show that there was a 1.85 percent decrease in turnover from the six months prior to the Women of Sales mentoring kick-off to the six months after the program ended. Both said they've received positive feedback about the program, and most of the 45 women who were in the pilot program have remained connected.
As a result of the success in the sales group, Ebert said MillerCoors started a group mentoring program for women in marketing in June and is about to launch one for leaders in the company's supply chain unit in late September. A second program for women in sales is set to kick off this fall.
"I say we want to be a learning organization where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and they're inspired to innovate," Morris said. "We want to develop our people and grow the business from within. That's very important to us."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
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