HR Mentoring Aims to Boost New Employee Success
Communication and Individual Support Engage New Hires, Reduce Early Turnover

“It all gets back to wanting to see our new hires succeed,” said Cheryl Cormier, Vice President of Human Resources for the Mental Health Association (MHA). “We get to know every new hire during orientation, and then they go to work at programs in the community where we rarely see them directly. One takeaway from our recent Employee Relations survey was the need for a bridge with new hires who may not have much experience working in a professional, person-driven environment, especially one that is decentralized like ours. We saw an opportunity for our HR staff to be that bridge. Now we’re mentors.”

MHA’s leadership wants each new employee to feel supported, so in addition to their supervisor in the field, now they have a mentor who is their direct contact with HR in the main office. “It’s more than simply being available when new hires have questions, it’s helping them navigate the organization to find answers,” she explained. “What should they do if they get locked out of a computer? That can happen to anyone. Maybe they’re just not understanding how to input hours on their timecard. Perhaps it involves another employee. By addressing such issues quickly and easily, we’re helping new hires focus on being successful in their work. When someone feels successful, they are more likely to stay working in their job. That’s true for any employee, in any job, in any workplace.”

According to Cormier, most MHA employees provide direct care services to persons who face challenges such as developmental disabilities, mental health issues, or an acquired brain injury. “Our employee value proposition couldn’t be clearer: employees are the backbone of our organization,” said Cormier. “Lots of organizations say something like this, but for us it’s fundamental. We have from 20 to 30 new hires a month, many of them younger people, and with the continuing growth in our programs, retention matters. People who feel successful want to stay with their organization to advance in their career. About 75% of our program managers were promoted from within. We know retention matters.”

Cormier explained that during orientation each new hire is matched to a mentor in HR they can contact any time for any question. Each mentor also checks in regularly with each new hire they are assigned to. “On a weekly basis, we reach out to see how things are going,” she said. “Most check-in calls are straightforward, but when issues arise mentors help resolve them quickly so new hires can focus on the people they’re serving. People who choose the HR field tend to be focused on helping others, so being a mentor is a natural fit. It has been for our team.”

Cormier, a mentor herself, offered an example. “I just spoke to my mentee who is working at a new MHA program that just opened. She told me, ‘I feel so comfortable here, it’s all so well organized.’ That’s good feedback to share with the program managers. She had an issue about accessing her email that I was able to address right away. As we talked, I discovered we can do better helping new hires who have questions about time off. This short call was a learning experience for both of us.”

Cormier acknowledged the importance of managing the transition between orientation and working independently. “Three months is a long time to invest in someone’s recruitment, onboarding and training, only for the employee to leave us. I’m confident that HR mentoring will help transition more new hires into long-term employees. Our mentors are a resource, a sounding board, and a conduit to answers throughout our organization. So far we’re up to four orientation cycles with HR mentors and new hire mentees, so data is building to prove the success of this approach. I’m convinced it’s working for MHA as an employer, for the people who work for us, and for the people we serve. Everyone wins.”