Providing a Mentor for the Onboarding Journey
Once upon a time, a reluctant hero accepted the call of an obstacle-filled quest. But wait! How will the hero succeed in slaying the dragon or saving the world? How can this brave soul navigate the learning curve of derring-doing? Why, through the help and guidance of a mentor, of course.
Onboarding isn’t quite the same thing as the average hero’s journey. Many new hires are excited to begin their journey, not reluctant. However, some of the challenges they face in getting up to speed may seem on par with dragon-slaying. So why not provide a mentor along the way?
What’s a mentor?
Naomi Thalenberg explains what a workplace mentor should be: “The mentor should be…a fellow coworker or a peer that knows what it feels like to be new on the team. They’re someone you can trust to ask all of the little questions you were too shy to ask in the team meeting….They’re a veteran on the team that has cultivated a strong work ethic and reputation in the field….The mentor also serves as your office confidant and friend.”
In other words, the mentor doesn’t have to be a wise, bearded wizard (although any company with wise, bearded wizards in their employ should definitely make use of them). While some people are naturally good at mentoring, anyone with the know-how and experience to help a new hire has the potential to become a mentor. Like potential leaders, they just have to be trained.
What are the benefits of mentoring new hires?
For heroes, the benefits of mentoring are obvious (e.g. they don’t die). The mentoring benefits for the mentor are a little less clear-cut but impactful nonetheless.
The Balance says that “research indicates that employees who experience mentoring are retained, learn more quickly, and assimilate into the company culture more effectively.” Retention, development, dedication to company culture…wait a second! That sounds a lot like employee engagement. Well, if you were a new hire, and you started off your job knowing that you had a mentor to help you with any challenge you faced, how engaged would you be? You’d probably feel confident and excited about your new role and company and have a high level of engagement.
Mentoring is also a great way to facilitate the transfer of knowledge. If so-and-so is the best at doing such-and-such, who’s going to fill their shoes if they leave the company? Some or all of that institutional knowledge is lost…unless that employee has a mentee who learned how to do the task in exactly the same way they do it. Because of the mentorship, the company doesn’t lose that knowledge, and the employee who was mentored as a new hire becomes extremely valuable.
How does mentoring happen?
Mentoring can be both formal and informal, but to be sure that new hires get the support that they need, some level of formality is required. A suitable mentor should be encouraged to get in touch with the new hire if not outright assigned.
If the mentor is assigned to help the new hire as part of their job responsibilities, it’s important that they not make their mentee feel like an assignment. A level of trust and authenticity is required to make a mentorship work. If the new hire doesn’t feel like the mentor has their back, then they’re not going to come to the mentor with questions. They’ll end up struggling alone with pitfalls and perils their mentor could have told them to avoid.
Once upon a time, a not-so-reluctant new hire accepted a job at an acclaimed company. That new hire overcame the daunting challenges of starting a new job and went on to have a successful career…due in large part to great mentoring during their onboarding journey.