Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Assigning a buddy and a mentor, part of Onboarding New Hires.
One of the best ways to get your new employee off to a good start is to ensure they have the needed support right from the start. Aside from you and their teammates you're wise to also offer them a little extra support in the form of a buddy and a mentor. Ideally, this isn't an either or situation. You can make both available. So, let's briefly consider each role. First, is the buddy. This is a person who's on the team or at least a person with whom they will often interact. This is an informal relationship focused on the person's daily operational needs.
Things such as where to find supplies, where someone's office is, or any questions they might have about the normal way of doing things in the office. The buddy tends to initiate frequent interaction at the office for the next few months. But, it doesn't necessarily stop at the office, depending on the people involved and their schedules and family obligations, it's often a good idea to schedule a little time together, outside of work. What's appropriate will vary, depending on whose involved, so it might be a nice dinner, or even a tour of the community to check out different neighborhoods.
To choose a good buddy, you want a peer, someone on their level. Ideally, they'll have a few other things in common too. It could be the same college, fraternity, or a shared love of golf. Whatever it is, if you can pair the new person up with a person who has similar interests, the relationship is more likely to take root and be productive. In contrast, a mentor relationship tends to be more formal, a little less frequent, and focused on larger, more long-term issues. For example, it's common to see a focus on career issues, such as long-term goals, which local business associations to join, and other networking activities to consider.
Now in terms of frequency, there is no perfect answer, but a common approach for mentoring is to meet at least once each month, for the first three to four months, starting the very first week the new employee is on site. Where it goes after that is up the people involved. In terms of selecting a mentor, there are different opinions. Some feel you should have a formal process of assigning every manager of a particular level as a mentor to a certain number of mentees, including new hires. This ensures all managers participate in mentoring, and it ensures that the process executes on time, because participation is mandatory.
On the other hand, the relationships may or may not work, due to the more random nature of the pairings. In contrast, some firms try to encourage mentoring without mandating participation. This allows managers to look for people with whom to work, people who appear to have similar interests and values. In my honest opinion, this approach works best, though it can be more challenging to maximize participation. It's very important that anyone who serves as a buddy or a mentor understands the importance of the role.
Filling one of these roles isn't just a nice thing to do. It's an important responsibility. You want them to help the new person be successful. It's true that a person's success is their own responsibility. I only want to make the point that helping others matters. Because when you add a good support group on top of someone with a strong sense of self-responsibility, that's where truly great performance becomes possible. Please remember, the person's first few days will significantly color how they view the remainder of their tenure, so be sure you and the team are ready to get it right.
When you show them, that the organization cares, by carefully selecting the right support group, you just might be surprised how much they'll repay you with hard work and loyalty.
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