How mentors can improve your employee onboarding experience

Employee onboarding mentor

Recruiting great employees is tough, almost as tough as keeping them! The cost of recruitment and retention for organisations can run in the range of billions of dollars per year globally – a big reason why these two areas of the employee experience receive so much of the spotlight.

But there is another piece of the puzzle which often fails to garner as much attention, yet has a huge outcome on both recruiting and retention stages of a new employee’s journey. The onboarding experience.

The impact of employee onboarding (an employee’s first few days, weeks and months in a new organisation) is often underestimated.

Once the hire is hired, it’s all plain sailing until such a time when people start looking elsewhere, right? No, wrong.

22% of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment and 33% of new hires look for a job within their first six months.

So what can HR, P&C and L&D teams do?

First, create some intentional structure. According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through a structured onboarding experience they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years.

This article is focused on how mentoring can play a part in building your own structured onboarding process, through mentors guiding new employees through all the tricky (and enjoyable) parts of being a new hire.

The reality of most employee onboarding structures

Step 1 – Wait at the door/reception/foyer feeling awkward as people go about their jobs.

Step 2 – Be greeted by someone with a welcoming workplace misconduct brochure.

Step 3 – Go through an ‘induction’ which may or may not include video content which should have died a long time ago.

Step 4 – Awkwardly scuttle to your desk/cubicle to start ‘working’ for your new company.

Now, there are some elements that companies must legally go through. But it’s also unclear why those first few days for a new employee are often so poorly managed, when there is a cost effective, reliable and readily accessible method available to almost every organisation.

It involves leveraging the world class employees you already have and connecting your new hires with an experienced employee – in other words, an onboarding mentor!

The benefits of a mentor in onboarding

Making a good first impression is all about setting the right tone. It’s about establishing an early precedent and saying ‘hey, our employees love our company and we love them, so we are going to let them tell you about it’. After all, you work with other employees – not a company.

Some of the immediate benefits to a new employee include:

  1. Removing a big part of the awkwardness associated with a first day in any environment, i.e. an experienced employee greeting the new hire and normalising the work environment by showing them the ‘ropes’ etc; 
  2. Access into the employee’s existing network and circles during the first days and weeks of an employee’s tenure, providing a support network for the new employee moving forward. 
  3. The mentor can play an early part in the mentees development – whether they are in the same department or not. 
  4. The mentor may end up sponsoring the new hire for promotional and leadership opportunities (77% of men and 68% of women who have a sponsor reported being satisfied with their career advancement). 
  5. An established employee can also ensure a positive first impression of the organisation’s culture and environment.

Its not just the new employees who benefit from a structured onboarding process. Mentors involved feel more valuable to the organisation, create new acquaintances and become more actively involved in the evolution of workplace culture.

Retention starts here: beyond the first day

The benefits go well beyond the first day for new hires – and for the organisation. Zynga is a great case study and an example of a successful new graduate program beginning with a weeklong (mentoring driven) onboarding bootcamp:

‘Zynga wants their new grads to be challenged and integrated into the culture – but also wants their mentors to be challenged through reverse mentoring, with fresh new employees bringing new ideas and an outside perspective. Both parties work together to innovate, learn from, and challenge one another in a dynamic and stimulating environment’.

These types of formalised practices create real, material changes in the workplace. Consider the impact a perpetual cycle of positive onboarding experiences for new hires can have on your workforce – where every new hire is grateful for their mentor, and in turn ‘pays it forward’ by later becoming a mentor themselves.

Measuring onboarding success

So you implement a mentor onboarding program at your organisation. How do you know if it’s working?

Early turnover

One of the surest signs of great onboarding is low new employee turnover. The absolute number is not what is important (right now) but the relative number to your organisation is.

Take a look at (or begin tracking) your new employee turnover – and then measure against that after implementing a structured onboarding sequence.

Effective onboarding should seep through all levels of retention, so over time you should see improved retention all the way up and down tenure.

Employee satisfaction

A well-onboarded employee is also going to be more satisfied with their first couple of weeks and months. Try implementing a 90 day feedback survey to see how the employee enjoyed the onboarding process – and where they feel it could be improved.


Culture is a pretty soft term, and isn’t easily measured. But you can sometimes feel it. Providing your new employees with a mentor buddy should impact the mentees (new hires) and mentors (current hires). And between these impacts and increased interactions, your culture should improve and become more inclusive.

Look to the future

Don’t leave new employees to figure it all out on their own – maximise their development and tenure at your organisation through an employee mentor who has been through the exact same environment that they themselves are navigating today.  

It’s time all organisations started leveraging their most powerful form of social proof to make better first impressions.

How’s your onboarding process?

Mentorloop provides onboarding mentoring software and the necessary process to get you setup for success. Get a free demo of the software below.

See a demo of the software

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Lucy is the Co-founder and CEO of Mentorloop.

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