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Case Study: A Mentoring Program for New Hires

In an earlier post, Formal Internal Company Mentoring Programs, we talked about the value of developing a formal mentoring program within an organization and some ways to get started. This post will focus on a case study of a global human resource services company that put a formal mentoring program in place to enable new hires to acclimate to the company and its unique culture.

XYZ Global Human Resource Management Company Overview

XYZ Global specializes in managing human resources of small to medium size companies worldwide. They provide a variety of human resource outsourced services including recruiting/hiring, performance management, learning and development, payroll processing, and benefits. XYZ Global is a total HR solutions provider for their clients. XYZ Global has 10 offices in various locations throughout the United States and Europe. They have a total of 1,500 employees who specialize in various disciplines and have experience with a variety of industries.

Recent growth in client accounts necessitated an increase in offices – specifically in Asia Pacific locations and additional European offices, and hiring of at least 80 – 90 new account representatives and support personnel within the next year and a half.

XYZ Global has a flat organizational structure. Individuals are expected to solve problems and make decisions necessary to meet the clients’ needs. Employees have quite a bit of autonomy. While there are some general guidelines and escalation processes in place, the autonomy the employees have allows them to respond quicker to the client’s needs and therefore build stronger client working relationships. There are no offices; even the CEO sits in a “cube” alongside other employees. There are a few small offices and conference rooms available for private meetings. The organization has a team focus and individuals are used to pitching in to help out others. Rarely does anyone have an “individual contributor-focus.” XYZ Global has found that many new hires out of college – especially the “generation Y” groups – really enjoyed this working environment. However, some of the other hires, especially individuals with previous corporate experience and used to having their own office space, found the transition to a cubicle and the lack of a structured hierarchy to be difficult. These particular individuals had a high turnover rate and those who did stick around seemed to take an extraordinary amount of time to settle into their job and the company’s culture. The mentoring program was mainly focused around these individuals, although it was expected that the “generation Y” new hires would certainly also participate in the program.

Given the significant growth necessary to meet the demands on the business, XYZ’s learning and development department wanted to ensure that new hires had the support they needed to adapt to the organization and be successful in their roles. To that end, a mentoring program was developed to help new hires become acclimated to the organization.

XYZ Global Mentoring Program

The learning and development group researched other companies who had formal mentoring programs to learn best practices to determine what works/doesn’t work and how the companies went about setting up the programs. Given the investment necessary for the program, they wanted to be sure that the program they designed would meet their needs. They certainly had the support they needed from higher up in the organization for the development of such a program. The learning and development group also spoke with current employees (those who had been hired within the last 3 years) to learn from them what would have been useful for them to know about the culture and the company that would have made it easier for them to adapt and be productive within the company.

Based on their research and conversations with employees, they decided to focus on the following goals as part of the formal mentoring program they developed:

  • Increase the retention rate of employees through enabling them to more rapidly adapt to their new role and the company culture.
  • Build trust among new employees and current employees so they come to rely on each other to accomplish their jobs and work effectively as a team.
  • Strengthen and further develop their team-based environment.
  • Ensure that all new employees had access to the resources they needed to be successful in their roles.
  • Provide new employees guidance to find their way around the organization and access the resources they needed to be effective.

The learning and development group called on those employees who had been with the organization for at least 2 – 3 years and were seen as “go to” people by others to be part of the mentoring program. These individuals came from all functional areas and from across all office locations. They were individuals who consistently scored high on performance reviews and 360s and had the respect of others within the company. These were the individuals who constantly pitched in to help out – regardless of the task at hand. These individuals were the face of XYZ Global.

Rather than pairing one new hire with one current employee, the learning and development group decided to pair up small teams of mentors and mentees. Each team consisted of individuals from around the globe and various functional areas. There were 2 – 3 mentors (at various levels within the organization) and 4 – 5 mentees per group. Each group had their own SharePoint portal where they could share information and ideas and problem solve, and the entire Mentor Team had a SharePoint portal where they could share information and ideas as a whole. The idea behind developing small teams of mentors/mentees was because XYZ Global relied on the employees to function as a whole – as one team – to support their clients. Team efforts were valued much more highly than individual efforts. Given this, it made more sense for them to have small mentoring teams rather than have a one-on-one mentoring approach. If an individual was hired outside of the regular recruiting cycle, they would be placed into one of the already established mentor teams.

These teams were not set up for any specific period of time and the learning and development group left it up to the teams to move around should they choose to do so. For example, if a mentee on one team was ready to start helping a newer employee to acclimate, he/she may move to another team that is assigned a new hire to mentor. The learning and development group did check in with the teams on a regular basis through meetings with the mentors and mentees individually and through periodic surveys. Additionally, they surveyed the managers of the new employees to get their perspective on the benefits of the mentoring program.

Results of the Program at XYZ Global After 3 and 6 Month Time Intervals

The surveys on the mentoring program from mentors, mentees and their managers was positive overall, although there was concern that placing another new hire into an already established group was difficult for the group – it changed the dynamics of the group and they felt as if they needed to start from scratch in getting to know each other and determining how the group would function. This is typical of group interactions (see previous blog post: The Five Stages of Team Development) and when this came back from the surveys as an issue, the learning and development group wasn’t completely surprised. It was a risk in developing a team approach to the mentoring program, but one they wanted to take in hopes that it would be successful. An adjustment was made to the program so that when new hires were brought on board outside of the regular hiring cycle, they were paired up with a mentor of their own rather than disrupting a current mentor/mentee team. If a team chose to “take them in to the fold” at some point, that was great – but it was not expected or required.

One other change the learning and development group made was to strongly encourage that the mentor teams get together as a group at least once a week for the first month and then at least once every two weeks during months two through six. Although the mentor team approach was working well, learning and development found that the entire team got together too infrequently and usually it was a subset of the team that got together, not the entire team. The learning and development group really wanted the entire team to be together to mentor the new employees and guide them through their first months on the job.

Additionally they made it a requirement that the mentoring team stayed together for at least 6 months. Interviews with employees showed that it took about 6 months on average for individuals to be really comfortable with the job and the culture.


The learning and development group realized that their approach to mentoring was unique. While it had some issues, they were confident that it was the best approach for the organization. So much depended on people working together effectively in a team and having the mentors/mentees be in a team seemed like a great start to how these individuals would be working within the organization. What they learned was that overall the approach worked well; however, there were some instances where a new employee was obviously a great fit for the organization but just needed more guidance – one-on-one – in order to really settle into the job. In these circumstances, they set up one-on-one mentoring sessions to provide that new employee with the guidance they needed to ensure they were successful in their role.

QUESTION: What unique mentoring programs have you participated in or been involved in developing? How did they work out? Please share in the Comments field below.

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