Research on New Employee Needs

By Barry Sweeny

THREE key roles for mentor leaders are to be sure your mentoring program:

  1. builds on the knowledge base of best practices in the general mentoring research literature;
  2. accesses and is guided by the research on the needs of new employee;.
  3. designs and conducts its own research on the needs of the employees who will be mentored and served by other programs.

To get you started, try these two research meta-analyses on new employee needs:

  • Veenman, Simon. (1984), Needs of UNsupported beginning employees
  • Odell, Sandra. (1986), beginning employees who were oriented and mentored.


These STUDIES are both “meta analyses” which means the researcher collected a large number of research studies on the topic, compared the findings across the studies, uses statistical methods to control for program differences and find statistically significant effects, and then reach some generalized conclusions based on the patterns found to be significant and prevalent across all the studies. This is a very powerful method as it tends to “average out” unusual, or atypical findings which will not occur in most circumstances

In Veenman’s case he reviewed 83 research studies of organizations in which no support programs or mentoring were provided the novice employees.

Keep in mind that such research findings are bound by a number of sometimes hidden details, such as the dates of the studies, which leads us to ask ourselves, “what’s changed since then?”. This does not devalue the research findings, but it does mean we’ll want to consider the factors as we use the information to make our decisions.


The research described above may be useful in gaining initial support for starting a mentoring program and for defining possible new employee needs as a basis for program design. But, as significant as such research is, it is unlikely to give your program support that will last more than 2-3 years. By that point, all programs also need their own local needs assessment and program evaluation addressing protege needs.

That’s where a program leader like you comes in. Programs must be able to show the extent to which THEIR OWN employees are growing and improving. Since “needs” are like obstacles to that growth:

1. Carefully assessing protege needs before planning programs and mentoring is vital;

2. Designing programs and mentoring to effectively address their needs as employees and learners is CRITICAL to program success.

3. Assessing their needs after the experience is just as critical, for it allows you to demonstrate the extent to which your programs are causing protege growth, and it tells you exactly what the protégés need to learn next.

Count on the “Needs Assessment” and “Program Evaluation” sections of this web site to steer you right when it’s time for you to do this work.