Create a Culture Where Employees Train and Mentor Each Other

New hires should have a primary mentor who looks after their overall progress but also a contact or mini-mentor in each department.

Check out almost any survey on the top causes of employee turnover, and while the ranking among the top five reasons may vary, the top answers are nearly always identical. These causes were highlighted in a study done by Scontrino Powell, Inc., which shows the primary reasons for employee turnover to be: 

  • Lack of opportunities for professional development 
  • Inadequate compensation 
  • Boredom/lack of challenge 
  • Poor work/life balance
  • Job stress/unfair treatment

Then cross this list of findings of why employees LEAVE with some GOOD news—why employees STAY. The blueprint for creating an onboarding program that changes behavior and impacts the company’s overall success becomes crystal clear. 

Business Motion completed a study showing employees stay when they are: 

  • Paid well
  • Mentored
  • Challenged 
  • Promoted
  • Involved 
  • Appreciated
  • Empowered
  • Trusted

While these studies could easily turn into a multi-year strategy for reducing employee turnover, along with a lengthy plan for onboarding and ongoing training and development, one concept that literally jumps off the page from these findings and can easily be implemented is mentoring—peer-to-peer or supervisor-to-peer training.

Does this mean we eliminate all traditional onboarding training from the corporate world? NO! Traditional training done in the classroom or virtually for new hires and their ongoing development is still crucial to fully bring out the best in each employee. But by also developing a strong mentorship program, you will reduce turnover and attract top talent as a mentorship program touches on all the reasons employees stay.

Benefits for Both

Mentors inevitably will feel involved, valued, and trusted while being empowered and put on a mission to help the new employee find his or her footing. The mentor naturally will be put in the spotlight, and exposure is a tried-and-true method for recognizing people. Recognition equals additional professional opportunities.

The mentee, in turn, will feel an immediate connection to his or her mentor(s) and the entire organization. From day one, he or she will feel invested in, cared about, involved, and appreciated. Mentoring efforts show employees they are valued. This is a recipe for happy employees working at their full potential who do not leave.

Once new hires have completed their traditional initial corporate training, they should move into the mentor/mentee phase of their onboarding process. This process should go beyond the typical hands-on/job shadow approach where they watch someone in a similar position complete the work and then they copy what they see. The new hire should have a primary mentor who looks after his or her overall progress but also a contact or mini-mentor in each department. The group of mentors should meet regularly to report back on the employee’s progress and additional areas of opportunity or training needs.

Primary mentors should share basic information with their mentees about what their specific department does and the organization’s core values. Primary mentors also should discuss what they personally do in their position, what they like best about the company, and how they contribute to the success of the company.

Cross-department exposure and mentorship is also key. Have new hires spend time in every department in the organization, even if they will never work in those areas. This type of experience will ensure the mentee can see how all the departments support each other and gain understanding of the importance each department has toward ensuring the growth and success of the company. 

Think Outside the Box

Don’t necessarily go with the obvious choices of who should show mentees the different parts of the company:

  • Have someone in Client Services talk to the mentee about the company’s social media presence and the guidelines for how the employee can contribute to the image of the brand.
  • Give IT the job of walking the employee through the company’s Philanthropy mission and how they personally and their department give back in their community. 
  • Get Marketing to talk to the mentee about the wellness program and fun programs the company offers to foster teambuilding and engagement. 
  • Task the Sales Department with showing the mentee the company’s platform for staying connected, such as a SharePoint site, and where the employee can go to stay up-to-date on the company’s latest and greatest products/services and see company progress.
  • Challenge Production to cover the company’s financial goals and talk to the mentee about how their job contributes to hitting the targets through covering the metrics of the employee’s role.
  • Have HR talk about the company’s approach to customer service and what metrics, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), they use to track how loyal their customers are.
  • The Research and Development team can cover the Performance Appraisal system, including frequency, timeline, goals, and how the mentee can achieve above-average standards.
  • The Purchasing team can tackle employee benefits: health-care coverage, personal days, 401K, stock options, etc., and share insider information with tips on how to take full advantage of the offered programs.
  • The Finance Team can take one section of the employee handbook per session with the mentee and really dive into the how and why of each standard and policy.

Though much of this information often is covered during orientation, the human brain only retains 10 percent of what we learn in a typical classroom setting. Confucius said, “Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” We master what we teach! Mentors will master what they are covering with mentees and by asking them to present back what they learn; mentees, in turn, will retain all the information and become masters, too.

A Win-Win-Win

If you want to retain top talent, good employee onboarding is essential, and this cannot be done by HR and Training alone. First impressions are everything. According to HR consulting company Process Street, employees who participate in a structured onboarding program are 69 percent more likely to stay with an organization for three years. Some 64 percent of employees said the lack of an effective onboarding program was a factor in their decision to quit. What better way to cover all the reasons employees stay than by adding a mentoring program to your onboarding process?

Both the mentor and mentee will feel challenged, involved, appreciated, valued, empowered, and trusted. Happy employees lead to profitable companies. Profitable companies grow and produce additional opportunities for employee promotion and financial gain. A win-win-win!

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”—John C. Maxwell

Kristy Westfall Moyer is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.