How mentors improve your awkward and costly employee onboarding experience

Employee onboarding mentor

Recruiting great employees is incredibly tough, which might be why it gets so much attention.

Retaining employees is also incredibly hard, and costs organisations billions of dollars per year – which is why it gets so much attention.

But there is a segment of time between the two which fails to garner much attention, and works magic on both recruiting and retention. And that is employee onboarding.

Employee onboarding is an often underestimated portion of an employee’s tenure. 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 intentional structure. According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years.

The easiest way to create a structured onboarding process? Buddy up your new hires with a current employee mentor, who (with some process) can guide the new employee through all the tricky (and enjoyable) parts of being a new hire.

The reality of most employee onboarding schemes

Step 1 – Wait at the door/reception/foyer feeling extremely awkward as people go about their jobs.. Or worse, glance in your direction.

Step 2 – Be greeted by someone with a really 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 – Break for lunch where you need to balance your need for not disrupting the status quo and incumbent groups with not looking like a complete loner.

Step 5 – Awkwardly scuttle to your desk/cubicle to start ‘working’ for your new company.

Now, it’s obvious that companies must legally go through some of this stuff. But it’s also unclear as to why the rest of the day (and often the first few days) are so poorly managed, when there is a feasible and easily accessible way that organisations can make their onboarding process much better – without spending 5x times more money or completely overhauling their HR and talent teams.

And it involves leveraging the recruits you already have – and connecting every single one of your new hires with an experienced employee – or mentor.

What benefits does an experienced employee and mentor bestow upon a new hire?

The role of a mentor in onboarding

  1. The mentor kills a massive portion of the awkwardness associated with a first day in any environment; greeting the new hire straight away; normalising the whole situation by showing the new hire the ‘ropes’; and just being there.
  2. The established employee provides access into their own network and employee 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 start playing 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 (with a positive affiliation towards the organisation) ensures that a good and empathetic first impression is set.

Beyond this, the mentors of this type of program also benefit. They feel more valuable to the organisation, create new acquaintances, and feel more embedded in the culture too.

Retention starts here: beyond the first day

And the benefits go well beyond the first day for new hires – and for the organisation. Zynga is a great case study and one of the great examples of how new hire mentoring can impact organisational outcomes:

‘Zynga wants their new grads to be challenged and integrated into the culture – but also wants their mentors to be challenged too through reverse mentoring, with fresh new employees bringing new ideas and an outside perspective. According to their website, both parties work together to innovate, learn from, and challenge one another in a dynamic and stimulating environment.’ And their grad program begins with a weeklong, mentoring driven, onboarding bootcamp.

These types of formalised practices create tangible workplace change. Think about the impact that a perpetual cycle of new hire onboarding will have on your workforce – where every new hire is grateful for their mentor, and every new hire eventually pays-it-back by becoming a mentor.

Measuring onboarding success

So you do 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 too; so 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. Implement 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.

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.

On average, it takes an employer 52 days and between $750 and $3,800 to fill an open position. But you will get a MASSIVE return on this investment if you do the right thing by your employees – starting on the first day.

Don’t leave employees to figure it out on their own, even if they do have the help of a workplace misconduct brochure.

If there is one thing which every new hire needs to maximise their development and tenure at your organisation; one thing that can help new hires feel welcome and integrated; it’s an employee mentor who has been through and survived (maybe even thrived) the exact same environment that they themselves are navigating today.  

It’s time all organisations started leveraging their most powerful form of social proof and a far more unbiased party. It’s time organisations started making better first impressions.

After all, it’s the only one you get.. (as if you haven’t already been told).

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

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.