Transitioning programs for new employees: Enhance or replace mentoring

A streamlined new approach to a recurring corporate challenge. Photo: AP file

WASHINGTON, September 19, 2013 – In today’s working environment, profit and non-profit companies are cutting costs. The first to go – coaching and mentoring programs, even though everyone seems to think these types of programs are invaluable. 

In 2009, “about 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer[ed] mentoring programs” observed Marcia Jedd in her article “Mentors: Guiding the Way.” But by 2013, there was much less discussion about company mentoring programs in the media. At least based upon what has been reported, there seems to be an abundance of consulting firms offering mentoring to other firms, while much less mentoring is being offered from within.

There are two main reasons why mentoring from within companies has been reduced. First, training and mentoring programs are low hanging fruits that are easy to cut when companies must reduce their overhead costs. Perhaps a bigger reason, though, is that managers who serve as mentors are overwhelmed with work and have less time than they did in better economic times to provide mentoring. 

In good times or bad, the biggest problem with coaching and mentoring programs is that they are inconsistent within and across companies. They are also the types of programs that companies start, then stop, then start again especially when the economic winds are continually changing as is currently the case.

Perhaps worse, in companies that implement informal mentoring, the employee who is being mentored may, unfortunately, be assigned to a poor mentor or manager. This is a terrible situation for the employee because he or she learns poor job performance techniques and, in a worst-case scenario, can absorb a given mentor’s bad attitude toward the company or the job.

The presence of an informal mentoring program that is failing is also very destructive for the company and can also lead to a poor attitude on the part of the individual being mentored.


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One strategy to replace corporate mentoring programs that have been cut, or informal mentoring programs that may be ineffective, is to employ a new strategy: a transition plan. A transition plan helps new employees to enter the company, then monitors their interactions with coworkers and supervisors. It is a type of monitoring program that checks to make sure that a potentially good employee is not being hazed, is learning correct company policies, and is being effectively integrated into the company culture.

A transition plan differs from a mentoring program because it requires effort, but less effort than mentoring. A transition plan can be the same for every new employee. It needs no modifications for individual employees as opposed to a mentoring plan that matches each new employee to a mentor.

In addition, a transition plan can be part of a larger plan to diversify an organization. For example, when a woman enters an all-male workforce, it is not uncommon for her to be hazed, ostracized and tested repeatedly for her cognitive and emotional intelligence. Any person might be faced with similar treatment when entering a new environment and would likely find this challenging. However, people from a different background or culture might find this type of treatment more difficult to handle since they feel differently about their culture and surroundings to begin with. 

There are many organizational environments that would benefit from a transition plan: firefighting, law enforcement, construction, transportation (drivers, pilots), administration (secretaries, domestic services) and at least some Fortune 500 companies, to name just a few. 


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Organizations that wish to retain good employees must monitor them during their first year. For example, check in with the new employee daily, observe him or her throughout the day and make sure he or she is being treated with respect.

In addition, make sure that new employees are completing their assignments; check with peers to be sure there are no unnecessary roadblocks facing the employees; observe supervisors’ treatment of new employees; and avoid sequestering new employees with other more senior employees in places where they cannot be observed, as in a conference room or small office or in a car on long trips. Of course, monitoring can be delegated as well.

Monitoring must be formal. For example, create a checklist of job performance items and interactions you intend to observe or have someone else observe, and be sure to follow it daily.

Many companies lose good employees relatively quickly. Hiring and retraining is expensive and time-consuming. In order to avoid this during times when mentoring may be on the decline or may exist only as an informal process, create a transition plan that includes keeping an eye on your new employees to ensure they are being given a chance to learn, grow and enjoy their new company.

 


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Cassi Fields

Dr. Cassi Fields has provided expert opinion on career and workplace issues for nationally recognized media outlets including Forbes, TheStreet TV, MSNBC.com, FOX News Live, US News & World Report, Recruiter.com, WUSA9, News Channel 8, HR.com, and more. Dr. Fields, who received her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from George Washington University, lives in Virginia with her husband and two children.

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