Incorporating peer mentoring into employee onboarding can be a powerful tool to help set new hires up for success, especially on a remote or hybrid team. Connecting with a peer mentor can play an important role in helping new hires get comfortable in their new roles early on in their journey, a factor that can greatly impact new hire retention, engagement, and productivity.
Peer mentoring is a popular practice in the workplace environment, though it might be called something different from one company to another. Peer mentoring programs for new hires involve assigning each new hire a peer “buddy” who will serve as a non-managerial point of contact that the new hire can connect with. Mentors and mentees should be at the same level within the organization, in positions that are the same or similar.
There are many benefits of peer mentoring in the workplace, but bonding with coworkers is a pretty impactful one when teams are working remotely. Giving new employees a head start on bonding with their peers can help them become comfortable with the team more quickly, help them ramp up in a remote environment more easily, and provides them with someone who can help answer questions that don’t require management input.
The best peer mentors are engaged employees who are excited about welcoming new team members.
When identifying and preparing employees to be peer mentors, it’s important to consider how they’ll impact the program and the new hire(s) they’re assigned to. Peer mentors should be people who will set a good example in terms of what it means to be a successful employee in your organization. The best peer mentors are engaged employees who are excited about welcoming new team members.
Consider allowing people to apply, as well as encouraging managers to nominate employees with high potential or others who are well suited as mentors.
Select those who have strong performance records, as well as those who are team players and who set a positive example of the organization's culture and values. You might also look at those who’ve been particularly successful in the remote environment, as they can share some of their strategies for success.
Consider conducting 360-degree assessments of individuals who are being considered as peer mentors to allow for more than just management perspectives to be taken into account.
Provide comprehensive training for prospective mentors, in which they explore the mentorship role and develop key relationship-building and leadership skills.
Establish a resource group for mentors so they can easily connect with one another to share successes and provide support and assistance.
Clarify the boundaries between mentorship and supervision, ensuring that mentors understand their role is to be a trusted co-worker resource for the new hire, and that they know how to handle matters that should involve a supervisor.
Provide mentors with a point of contact on the leadership team to go to for additional guidance and support.
Providing high potentials with the opportunity to serve as mentors helps those employees grow as leaders.
Once peer mentors have been selected and trained, the next step is to consistently incorporate peer mentoring into your organization's onboarding process. Since peer mentors can play an important role in welcoming new employees to the team, they should make contact with new hires at the very beginning of onboarding.
Carefully match new hires and peers, pairing people who are at similar levels within the company.
Share the peer mentor’s name and contact information with the new hire in early onboarding outreach messages.
Instruct mentors to reach out with a welcome message on the new employee’s first day. This could be quite impactful for remote employees, who won’t be in the office where other friendly faces might otherwise welcome them.
Establish a cadence for mentors to check in with new hires during the new hire’s first two or three weeks, and then at least weekly through the first 30 - 90 days. For remote teams, it’s important for mentors to confirm the new hire’s preferred method of communication for these check-ins so they’re helpful and effective.
Provide mentors with suggested ways to connect, like sample welcome emails, coffee chats (virtually or in-person), fun facts about the team, co-worker introductions, walking check-ins via Zoom, etc.
Encourage mentors to make a point of sitting with mentees at departmental meetings, company-wide all hands, or other gatherings.
Request that mentors introduce mentees to others who participate in the activities they’ve expressed an interest in.
Every experience that a new employee has impacts the likelihood that they’ll connect with the company and become a fully engaged, productive team member. There’s no substitute for building employee connections early in a person’s tenure at a new job.
There’s no substitute for building employee connections early in a person’s tenure at a new job.
Including peer mentoring programs in the onboarding process can help accelerate a strong connection between new hires and the organization — even more so when connection can be challenging for remote employees. And beyond that, providing high potentials with the opportunity to serve as mentors helps those employees grow as leaders, while allowing management to get a sense of how well-suited they may be to move up in the organization.
You’ve learned what a peer mentoring program can look like, but why stop there? Mentorship programs don’t have to be limited to peer-to-peer relationships. Consider expanding your employee development efforts to include mentorship programs that are designed to assist new employees in the transition to a remote working environment, to help high-potential employees move up to leadership, or to enhance cross-departmental communication and growth. Use these tips for implementing a mentoring program at your office to get started!
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