The typical employee orientation goes something like this: introductions to staff, a tour of the facilities, an overview of policies and procedures, and paperwork to fill out. But there’s another way to assist new employees during the initial months on the job — and some employers are catching on.
They are pairing new hires with appropriate mentors — more experienced employees who act as a newcomer’s guide to the workplace.
Mentoring is hardly a new concept; it’s been around as long as work itself. But in the rush of day-to-day business, managers often forget the advantages of investing a bit of time in assigning mentors whenever they have new employees join their teams.
Mentors can provide assistance in a range of areas, from mastering basic skills to navigating the organization’s corporate culture. This allows new hires to make a more immediate impact on the job. And it’s a win-win move. Mentees are offered valuable, real-world experience while mentors expand their leadership capabilities and gain satisfaction from serving in a meaningful role.
Here are some basic steps in the mentoring life cycle that employers need to consider.
Launching a program. Mentoring programs have many potential benefits, but it’s critical to have a plan in place before beginning them. For starters, goals must be established. Managers should determine exactly what they hope to achieve from mentoring, whether it’s just getting a new hire up to speed on practices at the company or more in-depth training.
Effective matches are essential to the success of these programs. Those chosen to be mentors should not only have excellent interpersonal and professional skills, but also the time and interest necessary to make a difference in the role. A potential mentor may be an impressive employee, but if he or she is never available to meet with mentees, the relationship has little chance of success.
Managers should never serve as mentors to employees who report directly to them. New hires may have a lot of questions and concerns as they begin their jobs and need mentors they can talk to candidly without worrying about career consequences.
A team mentoring approach may be useful in situations where mentees need to learn about a variety of topics. For instance, an administrative professional might meet with the department’s tech guru to learn how to master the firm’s proprietary software, gain customer service strategies from another employee, and have discussions with a longer-term mentor who can offer professional direction and support.
Setting rules. The mentoring plan needs to include clear guidelines for how the program will work. All parties involved should understand the expected time commitment and degree of help that will be provided. For instance, a mentor might meet with a new employee weekly to practice better public speaking techniques.
It can be valuable to provide written confidentiality agreements noting that what’s discussed during mentoring remains private and won’t be shared with the mentee’s supervisor. People new to a company may be particularly hesitant to say anything that might get back to their bosses. Privacy policies can encourage a more open dialogue among participants.
Following up. Managers should check in periodically to make sure the mentoring relationship is on track. That way, they can intervene early if there are any problems. Sometimes there’s just a poor match and people need to be reassigned. In other cases, there may be issues with time commitments or the level of mentoring being provided.
A thorough evaluation of the entire mentoring program should also be conducted regularly to ensure it remains relevant and beneficial. Needs and goals may shift over time, so adjustments can make a big difference.
It’s equally important to make sure the program is getting sufficient attention in the company. Managers should actively promote mentoring programs during recruitment, so people know the support is available.
Mentoring programs are not only useful for new hires but also in furthering the development of existing staff. Individuals wanting to advance in the firm or master new skills can benefit from working with mentors. A strong program can help create an inviting culture where people are constantly sharing knowledge, generating ideas and are mutually committed to building a successful company.
Robert Hosking is executive director of OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of skilled administrative and office support professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.