Peer Mentorship for New Talent

Yukthi Gunasekera, Executive Coach

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Have you ever been considered ‘the new kid’? Starting a new job is exciting, but it can be intimidating for just this reason. As a manager, it is your job to make sure that new hires are confident in their role at the company, and that they don’t have to feel the discomfort of being the new kid. Peer mentorship is a way to make onboarding a painless process, and it also comes with many great benefits for participants and the company as a whole.

What is peer mentorship?

Peer mentorship is a program where a new hire is partnered with an experienced individual in the company for the first few months of their employment.  Ideally, a peer mentor has the same level of authority as the new hire, and they may have similar roles, hence the term peer mentor. They would offer advice, guidance, encouragement, resources, and support as the new hire gets acclimated to the corporate culture. They are there as a warm welcome to make the new hire comfortable in a new environment. 

Think about your first day a new job. What were your main concerns? 

A new hire might wonder, where do I eat lunch? Who should I talk to if I get sick and need to miss work? The peer mentor would be the person that answers these questions informally in more of a friendly manner, instead of in a supervisory role. 

Why have a peer mentorship program?

The benefits of having a peer mentor program go beyond a warm welcome and a comfortable work environment. Many studies have shown the ripple effects of having a mentor program benefit the whole company and the entire careers of the individuals who participate. Here are some of the direct and indirect benefits of peer mentorship:

  • Peer mentorship increases productivity between the manager and the new hire. The time spent in meetings with the manager can be focused on work, while a peer mentor can focus on introductions and finding your way around the office.
  • A peer mentor will acclimate the new employee to company culture by directly answering questions and learned behaviours that come from spending time with one another. 
  • A peer mentor gives the new hire a sense of belonging, which increases motivation and productivity.
  • Having a peer mentor show you the ins and outs of the company improves confidence and reduces uncertainty/confusion.
  • Peer mentorship improves job satisfaction and retention: In a study by Sun Microsystems, retention rates were 69% higher for mentors and 72% higher for mentees in comparison to those who did not participate in the program. This is a great way to keep top talent.
  • In the same Sun Microsystems study, it was shown that employees are 5x more likely to advance in pay grade with a peer mentor, and employees who act as a peer mentor are more than 5x more likely to advance in pay grade
  • study by Cornell University showed that peer mentorship boosted representation of diversity groups in management positions by up to 24%. 

In peer mentorship, what makes a good mentor?

  • They should want to be a peer mentor- Someone who wants to be a part of the program will produce better results than someone who is forced to be there. Additionally, you want the new hire to feel welcomed and appreciated, not like a burden.
  • Patient- The mentor needs to understand that it takes time to learn the job. They should be willing and able to help the new hire find their way without judgment or frustration.
  • Strong performer, maybe a top talent individual- When the mentee sees that their mentor is a strong performer, it gives them a standard of performance to live up to.
  • Is well-regarded by peers- The mentor should be someone that is not only a strong performer, but is also likeable. By associating with a well-regarded employee at the company, the new hire will also be well-received.
  • Motivated and positive attitude- Attitudes are contagious. A positive attitude will rub off on the new hire, and so will a negative one.
  • Good communicator- The mentor should be available and easy to reach. This is important so that the new hire knows they are not alone.

Tips for how to have a successful peer mentorship program

Decide how you will match your mentors and mentees

Some companies use computer algorithms which require participants to take a survey, and then they are matched according to their preferences. Other times, managers make the call of who they think will be the best fit for the new hire based on their own personal evaluations. 

In identifying potential mentors, the manager should consider things that will make the partnership successful in the short and long term. This means that having compatible personalities is probably more important than surface-level characteristics, such as being from the same hometown. One way to start this analysis is through employee profiling. Employee profiling is a way to assess how a person’s traits fit for a certain task. A career coach is a great resource to help profile new and existing employees so that each participant (and the company) gets the most out of the program.

This can be the most difficult step in creating a successful peer mentorship program, and there is little research to support what works and what doesn’t. The important thing is that the partnership should build trust and make the new hire confident in their role at the company. 

Establish clear expectations for the program

Each party should understand what the end goal is for each other and for the company. The mentor will gain leadership and communication skills, professional growth, and recognition for participating in the program. The mentee will have a more comfortable acclimation experience, an understanding of the ins and outs of the company, and one-on-one time with a helpful colleague. Make sure that these benefits are clear, and also think of some boundaries. 

What would be considered a limitation for your peer mentorship program? For starters, it is recommended that neither party gain any extrinsic rewards for participating because it takes away from the sincerity of doing it in the first place.  If the mentor is promised a bonus, it is hard to tell who wants to do the program to help out a new colleague, versus earning a monetary reward.

Furthermore, make sure that the mentee knows that his or her manager is also someone who can provide support and help. Having a peer mentor should not take away from or replace the relationship between the manager and the new hire; it should supplement it. These are things that should be made clear at the start of the program to allow everyone, including the manager and the rest of the company, to benefit.

Have a structure to the program to get it going

This structure would depend on the preferences, schedules, and priorities of the participants. For example, maybe they meet up and eat lunch together every day. Or, for employees that go through virtual onboarding, there could be a scheduled, 15-minute catch-up call twice a week.
This would be up to each participant and their managers, but make sure that before the program begins, there is a dedicated time and place for them to meet. This encourages active involvement in the program.

Overall, having a peer mentorship program is a great way to introduce new employees to the company culture. It is proven to improve performance, pay grade, and loyalty to the company for mentors and mentees.

If onboarding new talent is a difficult task, schedule a 15-minute call with one of our business coaches to see how a peer mentorship program can benefit your company.

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Yukthi Gunasekera Executive Coach

Yukthi Gunasekera, Executive Coach

Yukthi is an Executive Coach and a specialist in Communication. He believes that one-on-one coaching in leadership, management, and communication can help ambitious, high-potential employees to speed...

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