Mentoring: providing a good induction

Is it your responsibility as a mentor to contribute to the design of an induction for your mentees, apprentices or students? A good induction can pave the way for a harmonious and productive relationship with your mentees.

As I see the induction efforts made by my daughter’s new employer, I feel reassured that they value her as a person who can make a significant contribution to the company.

Aims of induction

It really is worth thinking carefully about what you want to achieve with induction. Don’t just repeat your past experience of being inducted – there might be a better way. It would help to consider what felt like a waste of time, and what made all the difference for you as a newcomer.

Commonly, induction programmes aim to:

  • Meet and greet newcomers, ensuring they are familiar with key people in the organisation and the workplace
  • Help them find their way around the building
  • Ensure they can access the IT systems and other important information sources
  • Help newcomers to understand the organisational culture and philosophy
  • Enable newcomers to immerse themselves in brand identity
  • Convey company/organisation strategy
  • Reinforce aspects of the newcomer’s role, including health and safety
  • Make clear the learning and development opportunities
  • Signpost sources of support

You may have different priorities, depending on whether you are inducting a student or apprentice who may only be working with you for a few weeks or months, compared with a longer-term colleague.

Who should be involved in design and delivery

When you are mentoring someone pursuing a specific education programme, there can be a complex network of stakeholders. Not only the people employed in your own organisation, but also there may be education provider partners with whom you will need to collaborate. If the work involves a lot of interaction with the public, customers, or service users, it can be useful to get their input into the staff behaviours and qualities of interactions that they value most.

It really does help to think and talk things through before the first learner arrives. Perhaps some of the induction can happen in the classroom before learners join the workforce. It is important to show solidarity with the education provider. Sharing induction responsibilities in a coordinated way will instil trust. If at all possible, getting input from the learners themselves will be invaluable. What are they most concerned about? What are they most looking forward to? What do they want people to know about them?

What will the programme include?

A well-organised document can be invaluable for setting out all the aspects of the induction programme. Timetable formats are helpful when the induction activities involve meeting with individuals or participating in group activities. Be sure to plan in some ‘free’ time for flexible e-learning sessions, or private study time. The newcomer should ideally spend a substantial proportion of their time interacting face-to-face with their colleagues.

Some techniques

Involve newcomers in a group if possible – Use icebreakers in group activities – have you ever tried ‘people bingo’ for instance?

Shadowing key people can be helpful for understanding how people interact, observing skills, and for networking.

Try alternatives to slide presentations to achieve greater interaction. If you want to make health and safety more engaging for example, how about creating a multiple choice using scenarios? Instead of putting it all on a sheet of paper, make a card selection exercise. Each card contains one of the possible answers (right or wrong) to a question. If possible, provide 3 or 4 ‘wrong’ answers for each scenario. Your mentees could work in pairs as you narrate the scenarios. This arrangement provides ample room for stimulating discussion.

Quiz – give your mentee a handout with ten questions to answer during their first week. This might involve them finding out where certain departments are located, or getting answers to questions about who does what, or what’s on the menu in the staff canteen.

Welcome pack

I particularly like these two suggestions from

  • Give the new starter a checklist of what they should have been told or shown by the end of Day 1, the end of Week 1 and by the end of their first month, and who is responsible for covering this with them (HR, supervisor or mentor). This will help reduce their anxiety about “unknown unknowns”.
  • If you have a digital camera available, take photos of each team member, and other people too, and make up a sheet matching names to photos to give to new starters on their first day. Take a photo of the new starter on their first day, so you can update the sheet for the next person.

Some principles

Consider the following principles to guide you in planning the induction:

  • Involve the recruitee before they start
  • Less ‘telling’, more interaction
  • Don’t overload with information
  • Ask for feedback
  • Remember you are getting to know them as well
  • Align tone and style with the brand

Being responsive during induction

During the induction process, you may pick up some cultural differences between you and your mentee. You might notice variations in communication style, or differences in etiquette and attitudes towards co-workers or customers. It’s worth keeping an open mind if some of these attitudes or approaches clash with the way you do things or with the prevailing workplace culture. Diversity in the workplace is to be celebrated. There are, of course, certain professional expectations and standards that must shape attitudes and behaviours at work, and this is where you need to focus your guidance.

Your mentee will appreciate frequent opportunities to check in with you in the early days. They will be eager to know whether they are fitting in, or doing what is expected. Use short, informal catch-up meetings to give them feedback and answer any questions they may have. Investing your time early on should mean that your new recruit quickly becomes a valuable and loyal team member.

Author: Anthea

I enjoy writing about the intersection between people and the natural world. I also feel compelled to delve into human behaviour - philosophically and practically. With a background in further and higher education, plant science and healthcare, I like to apply my expertise in workplace learning, distance learning and e-learning. Mix it all up, and see what comes out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: