Is it your responsibility as a mentor to contribute to the induction for your mentees, apprentices or students? A good induction can pave the way for a harmonious and productive relationship between you, your organisation and your mentees.
As I recently witnessed the induction efforts made by my daughter’s new employer, I realised how reassuring a good induction can be. A well designed and delivered induction programme can make a person feel valued. It indicates that they are trusted to make a significant contribution to the organisation.
Thinking about your aims for the 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 the 'brand' or team identity
- Convey company strategy
- Reinforce aspects of the newcomer’s role, including health and safety
- Make clear the learning and development opportunities available
- Signpost sources of support
This is not an exhaustive list. 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. Also, it is worth considering whether to broach the topic of emotional labour early on. Your mentees might be hiding their anxiety to make themselves appear more confident and competent. They might need encouragement to discuss their feelings.
Who should be involved in the design and delivery?
When you are mentoring someone who is pursuing a specific education programme, there can be a complex network of stakeholders. In addition to the people employed in your own organisation, 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 ask for their ideas about the staff behaviours and attributes 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?
Your newcomer will ideally spend a substantial proportion of their time interacting face-to-face with people during induction. 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. Where possible, if you have more than one person starting at once, involve them in group activities at least some of the time. Be sure also to plan in some ‘free’ time for flexible e-learning sessions, or private study time.
- 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.
- If you want to pass on important information, 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 based on 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.
- Try a quiz – e.g. 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.
- Give your mentee a checklist of what they should have covered by the end of their induction, and who is responsible for covering this with them. This will help allay any anxiety about "unknown unknowns".
- Get some photos of each team member, and other people too, and make up a sheet or a wall display matching names to photos. Take a photo of your mentee on their first day, and add them to the sheet so you can quickly help them feel like part of the team.
- Make a welcome pack. Give it to your mentee before they start.
There are few rules of thumb that can help you to deliver a good induction:
- Involve the recruitee before they start
- Less ‘telling’, more interaction
- Don’t overload with information
- Remember you are getting to know them as well
- Be sensitive to how your mentee is responding
- Be aware of cultural differences and don't be afraid to discuss them if it becomes relevant
- Ask for feedback as you go, and at the end.
If you have been involved in inducting mentees, what worked well for you and what didn't work? Please feel free to leave any comments about your experiences of inductions.