OK. It’s Monday morning at 8:42 am. You nervously walk into the office of your new job and you’re not sure what to expect. You have sweaty palms, your heart is beating a little faster and you’re trying to quell the butterflies in your stomach. As you don your best business attire for day one, so many thoughts run through your mind.
“What I am getting myself into?”
“Was this the right move for me professionally?”
“Can I do this job?”
“Is it the right fit for me?”
That first day is typically a whirlwind. You shake 1,000 different hands and quickly meet the entire company. You’re focused on remembering as many names as possible and by lunch time, your head is completely spinning.
Just when you think you’ve met everyone, you’re introduced to your mentor. This person is there to get you up to speed and put you in a position for success within your new organization. Your mentor isn’t your manager, or even someone within your department, they’re a dedicated resource to help you navigate through your new job, and your career path in the future. A mentor wears many hats as they assist you: including teacher, coach, motivational speaker, company concierge, physiatrist, tour guide and possibly even bartender.
Why Create a Mentor Program
The mentorship role at a company is immensely helpful, not only to the new employee, but for the company as well. The more conversations I have with my clients, who are HR professionals, the more I hear them stress the importance of a cultural fit. Companies have their own unique dynamics or personality that define their identity. One role of the mentor is to teach that philosophy to the new hire. It can be overwhelming to absorb so much new information so quickly. However, a strong mentor can be an advocate and explain the company values in a reasonable, understandable manner. Another role of the mentor that is truly critical to the success of the organization is the ability to train new employees and set them up for success. Even if your organization has the most dynamic and successful training program, the mentor should serve as an informal supplement to that training. Inevitably, the new hire will have some hurdles as they learn all the new processes and procedures. A mentor is a go-to resource for questions and can provide further insight for new hires outside their job function. It should be a huge asset for all involved.
Keys to a Successful Mentor Program
Now that you’re sold on the idea of creating a mentor program, you might be wondering where to start. Just like any new business project it’s important to identify the goal and put a plan in place to reach that goal. Here are a few tips to get your mentorship program off the ground.
- Identify Mentors: Several factors are critical for an organization when they select a mentor. You need someone is who smart, understanding, knows the organization and is a good teacher. Most importantly, an organization should select mentors that WANT TO be mentors. Make it clear to mentors that this could be a great learning experience for them, and a way to exercise their leadership skills outside the normal function of their role. Being a mentor isn’t easy and it takes time, energy and patience to mentor a new employee, so all mentors should be passionate about the responsibility. The mentor’s level of commitment and their enthusiasm directly effects the success of the new employee.
- Take Mentorship Outside of the Office: Fostering the perfect mentorship takes trust. In a successful mentor relationship, the mentee feels like they can confide in their mentor. Trust, in any situation, is built through time and experiences. Encourage the duo to get out of the office and do something, (anything) outside of work that can bond the two-some. Sharing experiences and learning about each other will create trust, confidence and a strong mentor-mentee relationship.
- Constantly Evaluate & Improve the Program: As with any aspect of the business, it is important to regularly evaluate and improve your mentorship program. Be sure to constantly solicit open feedback from mentors and new employees who have participated. Honest, constructive dialogue can help you pivot and reassess what is working and what needs improvement. Putting the mentorship program under the microscope for evaluation every few months will allow you to ensure you are maximizing its effectiveness.
- Seek The Feedback & Advice of Other Professionals: You will notice that more organizations are placing a bigger emphasis on their mentorship program. Pick the brains of other professionals in other organization. Use conferences, social media, discussion groups, meet-ups and other resources to get feedback, ideas and insight regarding what other companies are doing with their mentorship programs. Even a small takeaway from another organization can bring your mentorship program to new heights. Perhaps they have a creative idea that you can “steal” and it would make a tremendous impact on your organization.
So in summary, if you do not have a mentorship program … consider starting one for your organization. And if you do have one, think about what is needed to bring it to the next level. The best mentorship programs lead to a more effective onboarding experience for new hires, additional career development opportunities for employees, and a strong culture for your organization. It’s a great experience for both the mentor and the mentee. Big picture: it’s a phenomenal asset for the company and maximizing it will be a huge win for the organization.