The importance of mentoring programs for new hires
July 10, 2015

Accounting as a field is expected to undergo quite the growth boom over the next decade or so. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting will grow by 13 percent by 2022, several percentage points higher than the national average. That expansion means many new accountants.

To maximize their potential, these rookies are going to need the guidance of more experienced accountants. As Chronus noted, 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies already have mentoring programs in place. And the dividends are clear: Companies with mentoring programs have a retention rate of 72 percent, compared to 49 percent for those without. 

Here is how you, the veterans of the industry, can help mold the next generation:

Mentees need to keep journals
Even if a manager or mentor never reads it, journaling helps mentees in a number of ways. With just 10-15 minutes of writing per day, they're able to organize their thoughts and feelings, which creates an avenue for expression many workers don't have. Additionally, these journals allow mentees to pick up on key issues and behaviors in themselves and their co-workers. In turn, this helps structure any questions or managerial requests they might have. The workers who regularly update their journals are also found to be better with time management, Fast Company reported.

Ongoing training is crucial
Because they've just graduated, new hires are most up to date on the theory of accounting. However, there's a difference between knowing theory and actually applying it in the real world. Help new accountants adjust to their positions by finding organic ways to implement that knowledge. For instance, if you encounter an uncommon issue during an audit, bring the mentee in and discuss the problem and any potential solutions. Even if they might not ever encounter a similar problem, it's a way to help keep them thinking about how to convert knowledge and facts into experience.

Additionally, frequent tests and quizzes, including brain teasers, word problems, riddles and math equations might be worth exploring. Never push these exercises, though, as they're meant to be a leisurely aside to the actual day's workflow. 

Teach by example
People often believe the easiest way to teach something is through lecturing and practice exercises. That might be acceptable for certain protocols and procedures, but there are other lessons that should be taught differently. As the more senior accountant, it's important to serve as a role model for the younger professional. Want to teach them the importance of filing reports on time? Get those in early yourself. Trying to promote better interpersonal communication? Show them how it's done. Need to emphasize the importance of brand loyalty and the benefits of long-term employment? Serve as a kind of champion and mascot. New hires are impressionable, and what they observe in their first few weeks can impact their entire career.

Establish boundaries and communication guidelines
Being new to any company can be a frightening prospect, which is why a mentee might rely on his or her mentor for emotional support. However, it's essential that the mentor dictates the relationship. Let mentees know when and how they can communicate and if there are any limitations after working hours. Exemplify how personable mentees should be through organic conversations; for instance, sharing details of a recent holiday might encourage similar conversations from the mentee. A weekly meeting is usually best, but scheduling times more frequently can help instill varying levels of dependence and reliance. If need be, take the meetings outside the office, be it a leisurely stroll during break time or a lunch meeting. 

Nexus: G-WEBCD5