Pilot program to help mentor new staff

Lindsey Reed

New staff may be getting more of a welcome from now on as a mentoring program gets rolling.

The Staff Council has started a mentor program for new staff to help increase retention rates.

The pilot mentoring program began on Jan. 1.

Western loses a lot of staff in the first four or five years that they’re here, Staff Council Chair Elizabeth Paris said.

“When you come from a private business to Western, it can be overwhelming,” she said.

Often times the person that the new staff member is replacing is already gone, which can make it harder for the new staff member to get adjusted, Paris said.

New staff members will be sent a letter and will have the opportunity to get a staff council member assigned to them as a mentor.

“We want them to know that someone is out there for them,” she said.

Paris said Staff Council conducted a study two years ago and last fall, which both gave similar results.

“Forty-eight percent of the staff has been here less than five years,” she said. “That tells you we need to work on retention.”

The 48 percent could be inflated as positions are added, Paris said. The study only looks at the names of staff members and their years of service.

Improving retention rates is important because it takes time and money to train new staff, Paris said.

Heather Stubblefield, a Staff Council member, said the mentoring program for new staff is optional and lasts six months per new staff member.

“It’s no cost to anyone, and hopefully it will improve staff morale,” Stubblefield said.

Four letters have recently been mailed to new staff about the program, and the council is waiting to hear responses, Stubblefield said.

As the program progresses, former Staff Council members and others will be invited to participate as mentors, Paris said.

“We hope it can be an ongoing thing,” Paris said.

Michelle Ramsey, a controller accounts associate, has been at Western just over three years and said she would have liked the staff mentoring program when she first started.

“It’s a large campus – you don’t know where the different buildings are or where to park,” she said. “It’s a whole lot to learn really quick, and you don’t know who to go to.”

Ramsey said coming to Western was partly overwhelming at first because she didn’t attend college on the Hill.

Paris said Staff Council members know that much of Western’s staff stays because of things like benefits, but it is uncertain why some staff leave before reaching five years.

The council is already working to get an exit interview process set up to find out why staff members leave.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]