Benefits of a Joint Orientation and Mentoring Program

Mentoring Programs are one of the most powerful tools that major corporations have used in the employee orientation process, states, Blickle, Witzki and Schneider in their April, 2009 article in the Journal of Vocational Behavior. Employee orientation is vital to the organization to teach skills to new employees and to a variety of other employees including those that have been promoted within the same organization. In a recent survey conducted by Kelly Services, 80% of the 100,000 employees surveyed in 34 countries are concerned with the skills/training offered by employers during orientation. Employees feel that their skills are good for only 5 years thus they need to supplement their skills with other methods for up-training.

George Corona, EVP and COO of Kelly Services says that “people are keenly aware that their current skills must be enhanced” and some of the most effective methods in today’s environment for skill enhancements are blogging, social networking and mentoring. The virtual world is an inexpensive and effective training and re-training tool for employee development thus employers looking to cut costs can include a wide range of computer-based trainings and computer-based mentoring programs in their orientation. IBM have even gone further than other organizations by not only instituting a formal mentoring program; but like its orientation the company has taken both programs into the virtual world by conducting them simultaneously during the first few weeks of an employees’ initial hiring or promotion.

Caldwell and Carter in their book The Return of the Mentor discuss formal and informal mentoring and the establishment of such programs in both large organizations and small family enterprises. In addition to their discussion on the history of mentoring, they also touch on the fact that organizations are increasingly recognizing that mentoring programs provides significant benefits for both the employees and the organization during the orientation stage.

While many organizations encourage mentoring, the reality is few have instituted formal programs. Sheree Butterfield, an Executive Coach with BreakThrough Consulting, states “It is a huge commitment of resources to recruit…whether they are an internal or an external candidate…[mentoring] protects your company’s hiring investment… [and] reduces the time to breakeven…[when the] average time for a new hire to reach breakeven is 6.5 months”. Ms. Butterfield agrees with the belief that the most compelling reason to establishing any mentoring programs during the orientation stage is the increase in engagement. Katharine Giacalone, president of KGWorks, a management consulting firm based in the Washington area on the other hand claims that the anticipated impact of a good orientation program is to improve effectiveness for the acclimation of the employees into the culture, rules, and guidelines of the organization. Margaret Magnus, author of the aptly titled article Training Futures concludes that mentoring uses relationships to teach changes in attitudes and behaviors to coincide with organizational culture.

Notwithstanding the end result, the establishment of a mentor/mentee support system during orientation will serve to welcome newcomers to the organization and help to assure their successes. Linda Stromei writes that these programs help to introduce employees to the organization’s culture, lessen the learning curve and increase in the advancement of their careers. Organizational mentoring programs are critical for employees’ successes today and they are also effective in quickly increasing employees’ performances because they facilitate the immediate transfer of business knowledge in addition to the regular training programs. Eileen Hablow, VP of Randstad, a work placement agency, recognizes that a mentoring relationship needs to be established to achieve specific goals, such as shortened learning curve, business networking, job skills, and personal and career development. While certain skills can be thought through the regular orientation training programs, formal mentoring programs play a huge role in preparing employees not only to be more productive, but also to be in leadership positions.

Whether formal or informal, organizational mentoring programs have to be personalized and must address specific needs of both the employees and the organization. Executives have to ensure that mentoring programs are well suited for the development of the career of new employees by its design and process. Wells and Johnson states in their May 2009 article in HR Magazine says that regardless of the type of mentoring program available be it formal or informal, organizational culture and a good employee orientation program influence new employees and assure their development and successes.

In order for employees to attain maximum benefits from mentoring programs they need to have clear expectations. Both the mentor and mentee need to be on the same page: the mentee must clearly define his/her needs toward the end result of the program, and the mentor must outline the process. In addition to the process being outlined by the mentor, the assessment of progress and evaluation of effectiveness and the achievements of the mentees within the programs are essential. Assessments can be in the form of interviews, questionnaires or informal and formal feedback. Mentees on the other hand need to be encouraged to share their views on the programs in order to institute desired changes. As a caveat, Dodgson’s research on mentoring programs shows that the informal matching processes are more effective than formal matching processes. In a study done in 2008 participants indicate their preferences for organizations with mentorship programs that gives mentees a level of input into the choice of mentors concur with Dodgson’s research.

Finally, effective mentoring programs such as the one instituted by Ms. Hablow in her organization consist of matching experience employees (mentors) with new hires or high potential employees (mentees). The benefits of mentoring programs to the employees are:

1. Professional networking

2. Non-judgmental listener for ideas and plans

3. Self-awareness and discipline

4. Acceleration for development and growth

5. Individualized leadership development plan for mentees that includes:

o Specific goals

o Leadership principles

o Development of current skills and expansion of new skills through various projects

o Development of innovative ideas

o Constructive feedback on professional development

o Face-to-face interactions

o Continuous and demonstrated support

Mentoring programs offers substantial incremental returns on the careers of new employees as they advance within the organization. It is extremely beneficial to have a mentor who manifests an interest in your career and in your development by explaining the facts of the business and offering precious guidance. Based on the evidence of the benefits of mentoring programs it would serve all new employees and all high potential employees to take advantage of the mentoring programs available through their company or organization during orientation or during their tenure.

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