Ramping up

Mentors are valuable in helping new
hires get up to speed, but not many
companies go through the trouble of creating formal — or even informal —
mentorship programs, according to a new
survey. A majority (58 percent) of chief
financial officers recently polled said that it
is uncommon for new hires to be matched
with mentors within their organizations.

The survey, developed by Accountemps,
was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from
more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or
more employees.

“While mentoring seems like such a great
way to get a new employee acclimated to
an organization, many companies don’t
even have an informal mentoring program
in place to encourage new hires to connect
with established professionals,” says Jason
Skidmore, Columbus’s regional vice president for Robert Half International, Accountemps’s parent company.

Smart Business spoke with Skidmore
about why it is important for businesses to
start mentorship programs, and steps companies can take to start one.

Why is it important to have mentoring programs in companies?

The main bottom-line reason is that it
helps new hires to get acclimated and
ramped up into the work environment
more quickly.

It is also important because of the good
feelings it fosters for both the mentor and
the new hire. For the mentor, it is a pat on
the back as well as a privilege and an honor
to be asked to guide a new employee. For
the employee that is being mentored, it
shows that the organization is committed
to his or her career, growth and development.

Relationships with supervisors are
always a bit tricky; it is not always easy to
be completely honest with your boss. So a
mentor is an objective third party that the
newly hired employee can go to for advice
and guidance.

Why do you think so few companies institute
mentoring programs?

The main reason is that nobody has
stepped back to think about it and set one
up. Many organizations don’t do it because
they can’t figure out how it is done.
However, if the idea is handed off to the
Human Resources department, it can happen more quickly. While the mentorship
program should always be run at a department level, the HR department can be
instrumental in getting it off the ground by
developing a standard 8- to 12-week curriculum.

That said, we all recognize that everyone
has so much on their plates these days. It is
hard for two people to carve out 30 minutes a week to dedicate to a mentorship
program. But, if there is a formalized
process within the organization with an
approved curriculum, people do find time
to make it happen. People quickly realize
that the benefits of mentoring far outweigh
the inconvenience of taking time out each

Have you ever participated in a mentorship

Yes, I’ve been both a mentor and a mentoree. As a mentoree during my first 60
days on the job, it helped me to understand
how to operate in the organization. The
best thing about being mentored is that I
could learn from the mistakes of others.
While it was a formal program that was
officially over within 60 days, I still keep in
touch with my mentor after seven years.

I have also been a mentor to employees,
and I would hope that they learned from
my mistakes as well. I have to say that
mentoring helped me in my current job
since it helped me to hone in on what the
department should be doing because here I
was coaching someone on how to do it the
right way. It’s a great feeling to be a mentor.
It reinforced that the company is confident
in my abilities as a leader who could be
counted on to bring other people along.

What are some steps that companies can
take to start a mentoring program?

There are several:

  • Clearly define the objectives and
    goals of the mentorship program. What
    do you want the mentor and mentoree to
    get out of the program? Do you want to
    pair people up to help them in the technical
    or cultural/operational aspects of the job?

  • Contact your HR department. Use
    its skills in organizational development to
    create a mentorship curriculum.

  • Get feedback from staff. You could
    formulate a task force to discuss and
    approve the curriculum, and add what they
    would like to see in a mentorship program
    and how they would like to see it orchestrated.

JASON SKIDMORE is the regional vice president for Robert
Half International in Columbus. Reach him at (614) 221-9300 or
[email protected].