By Barry Sweeny, 2001
THE MENTOR ROLE IN ORIENTATION
Although not always the case, sometimes mentors are assigned to new employees to help them with orientation, building skills and knowledge for their new career, etc. Typically, organizations also provide some level of orientation as well. When that is the case, what is the mentor’s role versus the organization’s role in orientation?
The answer is that the mentor must serve as a “bridge” to help the protege transfer from the orientation those skills and knowledge acquired there, and put them into practice in the workplace. In fact, research described in the article accessed by the following link, clearly suggests that without such follow up support, the majority of what the protege may have learned in orientation may not be implemented in practice or as improved performance. It’s part of the mentor’s job to be sure the protege’s learning results in growth and improvement in the work environment.
If you have not read the web page “How Mentoring is the Critical “Bridge” for Successful Development of People“, be sure to read it NOW!
THE MENTOR has a great deal of information and resources, suggestions and guidance that they may want to provide to their proteges. Their instincts are to:
- Provide in-depth information that the proteger may need for months to come throughout the next year
- Spend time getting to know their protege.
However, doing these very things may actually be a mistake.
It is true that mentors are chosen exactly because of their advanced knowledge, skills, and experience. However, if a protege is not ready to learn all the mentor has to offer, “forcing” all that experience on the protege can actually be a waste of time or even produce negative results. The issue is always protege readiness to learn, NOT whether the mentor’s knowledge NEEDS to be learned.
THE BEST ORIENTATION & MENTORING PRACTICES
DIFFERENTIATE orientation programming for employees who are new with experience versus beginning staff, professional versus clerical, and managerial employees.
- Provide for the whole group only what they all need.
- Provide in job-a-like groups just what that small group needs.
- Provide individual mentor support for things that are unique to each person and that require additional steps to use the information in some way.
PRIORITIZE the information, resources, and advice orientation meetings and mentors provide so that it is just what is needed for the immediate future.
Ask managers, proteges, and mentors to help develop sets of check lists which suggest the priorities for before work activities begin and for the first week or two of work. See elsewhere on this web site for examples of such checklists to get you started.
Provide the check lists to mentors and explain that the check lists are to help them set priorities and to AVOID OVER LOADING those they want to help!
DEFINE the mentor role to include giving orientation for each “first time” all year long, such as the first performance appraisal by the supervisor, the first client meeting, the first presentation to colleagues, etc.
DEFINE the mentor’s role to include discussion with the protege after orientation about the specific contents of the orientation program and planning for specific ways to implement that learning in the protege’s work. This process should include:
- Identifying what the content of the orientation program included
- Asking questions of the protege to ascertain extent of understanding of the orientation content and possible need for further protege “training” by the mentor on any topics.
- Deciding, what orientation learning need to implemented right away & what learning will be more useful later.
- Setting realistic longer-term goals and shorter-term objectives for implementing the learning from orientation in work.
- Planning the specific steps to implement that learning in the protege’s work, time lines, resources needed, etc.
- Deciding how the mentor can support the protege’s plan to use orientation learning and skills in the protege’s work.
TRAIN the mentors in a mentoring process model that includes both TASK and RELATIONSHIP dimensions. Urge them to focus on tasks early and build relationships gradually.
INFORM all staff that it “Takes a village to provide the support we ALL DESERVE for professional growth.” and invite all forms of informal mentoring. Prompt mentors to state their view that a team is more effective than any one mentor.