Can Peer Mentors Save Your Business?

December 12th, 2013 | Articles, Hiring Resources | No Comments »

Peer Mentors

Think back to the worst job you ever had. For me, it was a three-day stint during my summer vacation in the kitchen of a local dive bar. The kitchen itself was grease-caked and claustrophobic but I could have weathered it for a few months. What made me jump ship almost immediately were the grueling 10+ hour days and, most importantly, the feeling of being left adrift without any real on-the-job training. It wasn’t neuroscience but the owner only gave a vague explanation of my job duties before sauntering off to join the other barnacles affixed to the countertop. Needless to say, that weekend didn’t go well.

And that was a job that didn’t require a degree or complex technical experience.

When bringing on new personnel, there has to be some measure in place to get them acclimated. But what if a formal, elongated orientation doesn’t suit the style of your business? While it’s true that the blistering pace of some offices require new hires to jump into the breach like paratroopers into a hot landing zone, you want to make sure they at least have a parachute. A peer mentorship program can achieve just that.

New employees may walk in possessing a good deal of the technical skills you need but you should expect a learning curve with the following: obscure/proprietary technology, the company culture, and any desired on-the-job behaviors. A peer mentor can help to disseminate that information.

Any questions that may arise during the middle of processes can be addressed without interrupting project workflow. Moreover, peer mentorship can build up your team’s rapport by offering a direct channel of communication. Fewer questions will be left unasked when this precedence is set from the start.

Keep in mind that not every employee is hard wired to be a great peer mentor. There are plenty of great employees who just don’t fit the bill. Some may still be mastering their craft while others may feel pestered by an onslaught of questions. How do you find that right person for your peer mentorship program? Drawing straws isn’t the way to go. You need to evaluate your employees and hand pick mentors who won’t do more damage than good. Ask yourself, does the employee…

• Have strong technical abilities?
• Communicate difficult ideas in a straightforward way?
• Understand and live the values of your company?
• Enjoy helping others reach their potential?

Any red flags should encourage you to move on to someone else.

Ultimately, you need to do whatever is necessary to get your employee up to speed. If he or she is overwhelmed enough in the first days, weeks, or months to run screaming from your offices, your high turnover rate is going to hurt your bottom line. If you’re managing a rundown dive, you can probably afford to shuffle through a few employees. For any forward thinking company, a strong training program, especially one with peer mentorship, is the only way to go.

by James Walsh

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