Being a new employee is like being a new college student. Like in college, a new employee not only has the actual work to tackle but also has to learn about a new work environment; the people who are going to affect their work life; the rules of engagement and the company culture. These are things which are experienced and cannot be addressed with just a simple briefing by the HR.
This is why companies invest in mentorship programs – the idea being that a seasoned employee would help the new recruit navigate the company as well as be a sounding board for them.
Doomed From The Start
Typically, companies develop mentorship programs where senior employees are assigned to help a batch of new employees. However, upon closer examination, this model turns out to be quite ineffective: The senior employee is usually bogged down with work and is also not given a choice about their participation in the mentorship program. So, they neither have adequate time to devote to the new recruits under their wing nor reject the role of a mentor.
What ends up happening in many companies, is that the mentor sends out an introductory email saying, “Hey guys, if you have a problem, let me know.” And, more often than not there is no follow-up by either side and the mentor-mentee “relationship” dies a natural death. This also makes it difficult for the company to evaluate the program and find out if there’s any real value to it.
Small Changes With Big Effects
Now, what if companies were to take a page out of mentorship programs that are in place at colleges and universities? Instead of assigning the role of a mentor to a senior employee, and expecting them to shepherd a batch of new recruits, why not allow people to volunteer to be a part of the mentorship program?
In addition, mentors who participate should be employees who have joined the company just a few months or a year earlier. By making these small tweaks, the company can ensure that mentors are invested in the process and they are more likely to create real value for the new hires.
Similar Situations Inspire Deeper Empathy
Mentorship programs are meant to trigger a sense of belonging and loyalty to the organization. But, assigning mentors a large group of mentees makes this counterproductive. Mentees are unlikely to have an easygoing relationship with their mentor because of the hierarchy and the senior employee is unlikely to add any real value because they are in a different phase of their career.
Assigning mentors who are recent employees, on the other hand, means they understand what the new hires are going through and the difficulties they might face. It inspires deeper empathy, helps build deeper bonds and solves problems more easily.