You’ve heard, “he or she is a great fit for our culture,” or for that matter, “I don’t know if he or she is a great fit for our culture.” As much as we’d like to think that our workplace culture is a clearly defined, tangible entity, any new employee can attest to the fact that it takes a little exploring to discover what kind of a culture your new company has, and how you, do or do not fit into it. The sooner you can identify aspects of the culture that you align with, the more facile you can become in integrating with the culture, the company, and create success in becoming a valuable part of each: enter— the mentoring program.
Meritage’s Mentor Program takes place over the course of three months in an employee’s first year, where a seasoned employee is paired with a new employee to help them acclimate to the work environment, learn the company values and mission, and build relationships with co-workers. Mentors meet with mentees for 15-30 minutes, once a week, to informally chat, answer any questions, and strategize the best way for the new person to approach their role in this, possibly, foreign culture. In some cases, the culture may closely resemble a new employee’s last place of work, but if they left that place because they were less than happy, maybe not. Having a person from inside our organization share institutional knowledge, day to day best practices, and their passion for our company is a fantastic way to create cross-departmental cohesion, collaboration, and engaged employees that are interested in sticking around for the long haul.
Of course, some companies don’t seem to care if you’re in for the long term, which makes the ones that do, all the more valuable when they make it clear that they hired you for a reason and it is in everyone’s best interests to keep you motivated and onboard. How far they’re willing to go with this program, varies, but it certainly didn’t escape my attention that not only was I invited to join the program, but in addition to our regularly scheduled meetings, the company splurged a bit on our behalf. My mentor would spend an hour with me off-site, once a month, enjoying a peaceful and undistracted lunch together, on them.
In our introduction to the program, we were encouraged to set up our weekly meeting with our mentor, gathering in the kitchen, or going for a walk, or even stretching in one of the vacant conference rooms. In fact, the only thing that was asked of us as mentees, was our commitment to share openly and honestly, about our experience in the program at the end of it, as our thoughts and suggestions to improve it would be genuinely considered and more than likely implemented if they made sense.
At my first meeting with my mentor, I told her how excited I was. In my interactions with her so far, I had determined that she was smart, motivated, very accessible and very interested in the company. I asked her why she had elected to become a mentor, and she told me that she would have loved a program like this in her first year. A mentorship program where she could quickly learn where the different printers and copiers were, who ordered the supplies, what company sponsored programs were available – in short, to be the person for me that she wished she had had when she first started because Meritage didn’t always have a Mentor Program.
It evolved in 2017 out of a staff bonus plan where company goals included an innovation component. Each department was tasked to come up with one or two innovation ideas that would significantly streamline workflow, cut company costs, or improve a process. The goal was ten innovation ideas company-wide. One of the members of our Human Resources team came up with the Mentor Program as a way to increase retention, reduce turnover and enhance morale. In her research, she discovered that the average cost to fill a position is $4000 and a position stays open on average 43 days. Studies show that Mentor Programs can increase retention and job satisfaction and so this innovation was a keeper and the Mentor Program was created.
Let’s face it, by virtue of the fact that my company had a program like this, that they were asking our input on, and interested in developing and promoting, was already giving me a good window into the kind of company and culture I had been lucky enough to happen on. The fact that I would now have a weekly check-in, with someone on the inside to help me see if I was getting it right, to the extent that there was a right to get, was not just valuable, but also really comforting. It basically insured that even if I was too shy, or overwhelmed to get to know lots of people in my first three months, I would at the very least, have a trusted guide and counselor to give me a deeper and more comprehensive look into what I was experiencing. Maybe more importantly, someone I worked with that I could, quickly, call a friend.