The Importance of a Mentor During New Employee Onboarding

KK Owen

When it comes to ensuring employees are happy and successful, mentorships play a key role. From lower turnover rates to sky-high morale, organizations, mentors and mentees all benefit highly from these relationships. Mentoring is crucial for new employees as the first few months are the most critical for new hires. Studies show that up to 22% of turnover takes place within an employee’s first 45 days of employment, and up to 40% of employees who leave their jobs do so within the first year. In education specifically, 44% of new teachers leave the profession within five years due to feeling unprepared or lacking support from mentors. Research shows that teachers leave the profession at a higher rate than many other professionals. These statistics confirm that starting mentorships as early as possible is a necessity.

Having a mentor to show new employees the ropes and answer questions as they arise is vital. By mentoring new employees, you reduce the chances of them becoming unhappy or even leaving the company, which will ultimately save the company time and money.

In The Great Employee Handbook, author Quint Studer outlines 10 tips on mentoring new employees that will increase job satisfaction and will develop quality contributors within the organization:

  1. Get involved during the interview process

    Building coworker/peer relationships begins during the interview phase. If your organization does not currently have a peer interviewing process, work with the hiring manager to implement one. Peer interviews are a great way for members of the team to get to know the potential new hires prior to their first day of work. This process provides an avenue for the candidate to meet potential new coworkers and possible mentors. Additionally, employees might take a greater interest and a sense of ownership in that person’s success.

  2. Ask key questions early on

    If it is possible, ask a new hire to lunch or a coffee connection within their first one to two weeks. Take this one-on-one time to get to know each other in and outside of the district office or classroom. Find out how they like to work with coworkers, their expectations for the new position, what they do in their free time. “Most importantly, ask what you can do to help them be successful…make sure they know that if they ever need a helping hand, you’re more than willing to help out,” says Quint Studer.

  3. Help new hires integrate into company culture

    In the book, Studer says to “ask the new hire if they would be okay with you providing advice when you see them doing something that doesn’t serve them well—or not doing something that could benefit them in the company.”

    Maybe the new employee isn’t practicing the standard for internal memos or not following the dress code. This would be an opportune time to lend a hand. Make sure the employee knows that while they do not have to follow the advice of their mentor explicitly, mentors are happy to help and offer advice in any way possible. During this time, mentors may want to share other challenges experienced when they first started so that the new employee feels comfortable discussing those issues.

  4. Be a role model

    What gets recognized, gets repeated. Simply telling the new employee what to do and what not to do isn’t nearly as powerful as leading by example. Mentors know the standards of behavior for the organization better than the new hire, so it’s important to model the work ethic, communication techniques and other best practices that new employees will need to thrive. What coworkers and senior leaders demonstrate is often more impactful that what is said to the new hire.

  5. Resist the temptation to do it for them

    High-performing leaders know they really can do a task more quickly and effectively and it’s easy to let new employees just observe. However, the best way for employees to learn and grow their skills is to complete tasks themselves—no matter how long it may take or how many errors they might make—with coaching and support from their mentor or leader. Mentors should observe the new employee to ensure that the employee is using the correct work methods and processes and consistently and continuously provide feedback as the new employee is learning new skills. Mentors should always be available to answer questions and provide support as needed without doing the job for them.

  6. Share all the information required to do the best job

    Sometimes when giving information to a new employee, leaders will share the “short version” of how to do a job. Maybe this is to protect the “expert” status. However, this isn’t beneficial to anyone when mentoring new employees. “Make sure you’re not subconsciously holding onto critical information because you fear not being the expert. Being good at what you do is great…helping others be good at what they do is even better,” notes Quint.

    Share the training plan with the new employee. Give them the right tools necessary to do the job well.

  7. Be a friend

    It is almost a guarantee that the new hire is comparing the first few weeks with the new company to their last week at their previous job. Often, during an employee’s last week of work there is some sort of going away party complete with cake, well wishes and fond memories. So, new employees might be wishfully comparing that final experience to this new one where no one knows them and there isn’t any cake or fond memories.

    It’s possible that many people do not even know their name. That is why it’s the opportune time to not just show the new employee the ropes of the business side of the workplace, but to also make sure they’re included socially. Including new coworkers into social activities such as casual Fridays, spirit days, free breakfast Tuesdays or happy hour on Thursdays can go a long way in making them feel part of the team.

  8. Share tips

    A new employee wants to provide great service and go the extra mile. So, help them do that! Provide insight that might help the new employee succeed. Whether it’s sharing tools and resources, how certain clients like to be handled or communicated with or tidbits of information on other employees’ favorites, any information shared that will help the new employee build relationships will be very helpful.

  9. Set the new hire up for a successful relationship with senior leaders

    Typically, senior leaders who will work directly with the new hire are probably already working to form a relationship with them. However, there are still many ways to help in this area. Just as you shared tips with the new employee about customers and other coworkers, provide helpful hints on how to best handle the boss as well.

    “Explain how much the boss values receiving ideas from employees on how to improve the company and that they respond well to those who take initiative to increase their level of responsibility… By showing the new hire the ropes, you can help them not only feel more comfortable but also form a relationship with the boss that allows them to truly thrive at the organization,” says Quint.

  10. Remember that patience is a virtue

    It’s important to remember that new hires have a lot on their plates as they’re learning to navigate a completely different culture and how best to do their job in a new environment. New employees are going to make mistakes. Use these mistakes as learning opportunities. When mentoring new employees, they might ask a lot of questions and you might have to explain things more than once. Be patient. You yourself were once new, too.

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The Importance of a Mentor During New Employee Onboarding

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