How to Set Up a New Hire Mentoring Program During COVID-19

Did you know that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have new hire mentoring programs? Discover why you should, too and learn how to set up a virtual new hire mentoring program - during COVID-19 and beyond! 


Mentoring new hires in time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we recruit, work and live. It continues to have a profound impact and introduce new challenges across the world. 

Fortunately, with modern technology at our disposal, the pandemic presents opportunities as well as challenges. Given that 74% of companies expect that at least some of their workforces will continue to work remotely when the threat of COVID-19 has passed, it makes sense to rise to those challenges and explore new ways of doing things.

Remote work after COVID-19

With online working now the norm, those companies that are still hiring are having to find new and innovative ways to onboard new hires. Gone are the days of taking your new team member around the office and introducing them to everyone. 

What will you learn in this article?

As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I’ve worked with remote employees for many years and have learned the best ways to onboard people at a distance. In this article, we’ll look at how you can set up an effective and sustainable virtual new hire mentoring program that will help with your onboarding during the pandemic and beyond. 

What is a mentoring program? 

Workplace mentoring programs connect experienced staff with more junior employees. It allows for knowledge and skills sharing to help the less experienced person advance in their career. 

Mentoring is different and distinct from the employee/boss relationship. The mentor may be a boss or directly above the mentee in the organization hierarchy, but they do not have to be. A mentor may provide structured training to the new employee, or it might be a more informal arrangement. 

Mentoring program benefits

Mentoring is beneficial to mentees because it provides them with an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop in their career. New employees benefit from mentoring because it helps them to learn, grow, and develop in their careers. 

New hire mentoring benefits

Mentors also benefit, as mentoring allows them to develop leadership and management skills, reflect on and enhance their knowledge, and experience a sense of fulfillment. 

Mentoring program statistics you need to know

Setting up a new hire mentoring program provides numerous benefits for the company as well as for the employees. 

According to National Mentoring Day, 55% of businesses surveyed felt that mentoring had a positive impact on their profits, while 67% reported an increase in productivity. 

Whatever the size of your business, you’ll be in good company if you launch a mentoring program - 71% of Fortune 500 companies have them!

New hire mentoring programs

Read on to learn how to do it. 

How to set up a mentoring program remotely? 

Here is how to set up a remote mentoring program in 5 easy steps:

Step #1: Define your goals and metrics 

Before you can set up a successful mentoring program, you must understand what you aim to achieve. Presumably, the goal of your program is to help onboard new hires and integrate them into your team. But be more specific than that. 

Will the mentor have any direct training responsibility for the new hire? What benefits do you want each party to get out of the arrangement? Whatever your goals are, it’s also essential to define how you will evaluate them. Many of the benefits of mentoring programs are intangible or hard to quantify, so plan how you will define success. 

Ask your mentors and mentees to agree on goals or learning outcomes at the beginning of their mentoring relationship. You can then ask them to complete a mini-evaluation at the halfway point and a more complete evaluation when the mentorship is concluded. The success rates of these predefined goals will help to assess the overall effectiveness of the program. 

When a number of people have gone through the program, you can conduct a satisfaction survey of all participants. This will give you an overview of the program’s success. Over the medium- to long-term, you will hopefully see an increase in overall employee engagement and in your employee retention rates. 

Step #2 Seek input

Your mentoring program will only succeed if it’s something your staff actually want. If it’s just another burden on somebody’s already over-full plate, they’ll resent it and won’t engage fully. 

Therefore, seek input from established team members and new employees alike. What support does new staff need to help them settle in? What would help them to feel like part of the team in this era of remote working and social distancing? 

Additionally, what do seasoned members of your team think newcomers need most? People who have been there will have the best insight into your onboarding process. Conduct onboarding surveys to collect valuable information. 

Step #3: Establish ground-rules

If you want your mentoring program to be successful, you must define what success looks like in your context. Before you start the program, make sure the following parameters and rules are clear:

Once you have answered these questions, it’s a good idea to create a simple one-page document outlining the process and expectations for both mentors and mentees.

Step #4 Set up an effective pairing system

How are you going to match mentors with mentees? Pairing your new hire with whoever volunteers first will not lead to a positive mentoring experience.

I recommend asking the new employee to write down 3 - 5 things they’d like to learn about and skills they’d like to develop. Ask all volunteer mentors to write down a list of skills and knowledge they feel confident imparting. Then use this information to pair people up accordingly. 

Step #5: Encourage focus on relationships and culture

Succeeding as an employee is not just about the technical or job skills required to fulfill the role. It is also about building relationships and integrating well into the organization’s culture. Therefore, your mentoring program should focus on these critical areas as well as on role-specific skills and knowledge. 

According to EMP Trust, 60% of managers who fail to onboard new employees successfully cite failure to establish strong relationships as a significant factor. In the era of remote working, where many people are already feeling isolated and cut off, these relationships can be more critical than ever. 

Remote work challenges

Positive company culture also improves productivity, motivates employees, and enhances your bottom line. Part of the mentor’s role should be in helping the new employee to build social connections at work, get to know everyone in the team, and understand the office culture. 

Platforms you can use for online mentoring

Your mentors and mentees could simply speak on the telephone, email one another, or meet for socially-distanced conversation over coffee. However, there are specialist mentoring software programs available and I recommend investing in one if you can afford to. 

For example, MentorCity provides an easy-to-use platform for matching mentors with mentees and a virtual environment in which they can communicate. And Graduway powers mentoring programs for educational and non-profit organizations across the world. 

Investing in a mentoring platform not only streamlines the process, but it also shows your employees that you are committed to the success of the program. At a minimum, provide a video conferencing tool that everyone on the mentoring program will have access to. Rik Nemanick, PhD, author of The Mentor’s Way, believes that being able to see the other person’s face strengthens connection and helps the mentee to feel heard. 

4 mentoring programs to inspire you 

Every mentoring program is unique. How you run yours will depend on what makes the most sense for your business. It will also depend on factors like budget and organization size. 

Here are a few great examples of mentoring during COVID-19 to inspire you as you set up your program:

Example #1: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in the UK responded to the pandemic by upgrading its mentoring platform to improve the offering. The system now allows mentees to flag up particular areas in which they are seeking guidance or mentorship. The platform is already supporting over 300 mentor/mentee relationships. 

Example #2: The Virtual Physiatry Mentors

Doctors Sheena Bhuva, M.D., and Benecia Williams, D.O., set up the Virtual Physiatry Mentors in response to a “need for mentorship during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.” They support medical students, residents, and fellows in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. In addition to providing online support, they have also been working directly with universities and medical schools, running virtual events and social media takeovers: 

Example #3: Baker McKenzie

Anna Brown and Colin Murray, of Baker McKenzie - one of the world’s largest law firms - have long been champions of the importance of mentoring. They believe it is critical in achieving equality of opportunity for women and ethnic minority applicants, and that this is more important than ever during a crisis, when “opportunity for bias” can surface. They wrote in Bloomberg Law that they are “doubling down on mentorship” in response to the pandemic. 

Example #4: University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh recognizes the challenges of onboarding new hires during COVID-19 and remote working. As a result, its HR team has written mentorship into their guidance for managers of new employees. Setting up mentoring as an expected part of the onboarding process helps ensure that all new team members benefit from the opportunity during these challenging times. 

Conclusion: Virtual mentoring = happier and more engaged employees

Employee engagement has always been essential to business success. Your people are your most important asset and so it makes sense to look after them to the best of your ability. 

If you already have a mentoring program, take this opportunity to make sure it is functioning well. If not, how can you tweak and improve it to get things back on track? 

And if you do not have a new hire mentoring program, you’re missing out on a vital opportunity. Follow these tips to get started today! 

About the author

Matt Diggity is a search engine optimization expert focused on affiliate marketing, client ranking, lead generation, and SEO services. He is the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, LeadSpring LLC, and host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.

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