Mentoring is one of the strongest tools organizations can use to train and develop new team members. New hires have a lot of information they need to focus on, and they will most likely be unsure of the best steps they need to take to succeed. Mentorship gives new team members resources to guide, reassure, and orient them, as well as helping them become a member of the team culture and vision. Providing mentorship programs within your organization can be complicated, but we have some tips on how you can make it a consistent part of your new hire onboarding.
Being an onboarding mentor takes patience and understanding, not only from the mentor themselves but also from your organization. Mentorship involves empathy and understanding of the mentee’s skillset as well as how to best grow those skills. Being able to say “I struggled with this when I was new too, here’s how I eventually got better” is a way to pass knowledge forward, smooth out the new hire learning curve, and train both the mentor and mentee in HR and time management skills.
Mentoring should be planned out with individuals within your organization who have the experience, time, and interest to help teach new and inexperienced employees. They should be introduced early, and depending on the organizational structure, ideally before formal processes are put into place for the new hire. This could be anything from scheduled shadowing sessions, reviews, and work oversight to something as simple as just letting the new hire know that there is someone who is available and will make the time for their questions and show them around.
If you’re not quite sure where to start when onboarding, we suggest you check out this quick video we created that goes over the 4 best practices for remote onboarding. This can help you set metrics on what successful new hire experiences look like, as well as grounding your philosophy in industry trends. I’ll go over each of these best practices in more detail below.
When you Create a pre-onboarding phase your new hire will inevitably have some pretty reasonable questions. Things like “Ok, so I’ve completed my paperwork… but now who do I give it to? Who is going to reach out to me to introduce me to the team?” Typically, these responsibilities could be handled by their direct supervisor, but there’s nothing stopping an experienced team member from giving a helping hand during this phase of onboarding. This is a great chance to meet the new team member, introduce yourself and the rest of the team and really start to establish a repour with them. Meeting with your new hire early and often establishes that your organization is interested in helping them succeed and sets the stage for what the team culture and daily interactions will be like.
This also segues comfortably into providing orientation for your new hire. Again, there is often no reason this can’t be delegated to a senior team member as opposed to the employee’s direct boss. Helping your new hire familiarize themselves with the tools they will need, getting set up, introduced to their space, physically or in the multitude of different file sharing and chat systems that are now available to remote employees, and just generally allowing them to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. After that, creating new hire first tasks is a breeze. Introducing the new hire to their daily tasks, responsibilities, and introductory challenges could be a function of goal delegation: “I’m confident you could do this by the end of the week, I‘ll show you how to get started, and then when you are done, I’ll integrate it into what I’m doing. I’ll show you how to do that too.”
Most importantly, a mentor can step in to provide performance support to a new hire. In my opinion, this is the most important aspect of mentorship. Answering day-to-day questions, guiding by explanation, and showing the ins and outs of a job or career path are the core goals when taking someone under your wing.
Some organizations may formally structure their mentorship program, having the mentor sit in on or conduct performance reviews, design task lists, and check on work, and they may be the new hire’s direct supervisor or senior coworker. This tends to work very well at larger companies with a more complicated internal structure—for example, if a company has a large department of employees but few share roles and responsibilities. Often, though, mentoring is more informal, involving employees who share responsibilities in smaller organizations or departments where the hierarchy is more defined by experience than job title. In these situations, it generally makes more sense for someone who is in the same or a similar role but has more experience to take on the responsibilities of being available for help, guidance, and direction.
There are also many different approaches to providing mentorship assistance. Some individuals prefer a process that involves a slow introduction to responsibilities with a lot of oversight and preparation. Others may opt more for having a new hire dive into the deep end early. I know that I fall into that category, and it takes knowing your new hire and understanding how your personalities mix and match. In the past when I have scouted and hired people, I’ve known they were talented, but I was unsure of what they could do and pushing them out of the nest—knowing that I’d jump in if it went sideway—gave them the opportunity to succeed on their own and gain confidence in their skills.
When mentorship tasks are completed appropriately, your new hires will acclimate to their roles quickly, efficiently, and with confidence. This will also grow your mentors’ skills and abilities to manage individuals, as well as learn important delegation skills while providing assistance and gifting their experience to others. When crafting your next onboarding program, consider the benefits that a strong mentorship program could bring to your organization.