Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Impact of Formal Mentorship on Socialization and Commitment of Newcomers

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Impact of Formal Mentorship on Socialization and Commitment of Newcomers

Article excerpt

Over the last decade a great deal has been written about the process of mentorship (Burke, 1984; Fagenson, 1988; Kram 1983, 1985) and the nature of mentorship (Burke, 1984; Kram 1985; Odiorne, 1985: Ragins and Cotton, 1993). These studies, however, focused on the relationship that naturally emerges between a newcomer and a senior member of the organization. The results of these studies have led us to believe that mentorship is a valuable activity for the mentor, the mentee and the organization in which it takes place (Dreher and Ash, 1990; Fagenson, 1988: Goh, 1991; Kanter, 1977: Ragins and Cotton, 1991, 1993).

Influenced by the promising results of mentorship studies, many organizations are trying to establish formal mentor-mentee relationships among its newcomers and existing members. Bell Labs, Federal Express, and the Internal Revenue Service are some of the companies that are among the growing list of organizations adopting formal mentorship programs (Zey, 1985). While it is easy to find companies that are depending upon such formal mentorship programs to socialize and retain their new employees, it is difficult to find empirical evidence that suggests that these programs are effective. The authors were able to find a total of two studies pertaining to formal mentorship relationships that examined the program's outcomes or the determinants of its key outcomes (Chao et al., 1992: Noe, 1988).

This was an exploratory study designed to examine if a formal mentorship program could effectively socialize and enhance the commitment of new members of an organization as had been the case in naturally emerging mentorship relationships (Chao et al., 1992; Ostroff and Kozlowski, 1993). The purpose of the study was threefold: (a) to draw attention to the need to study formal mentorship programs; (b) to explore the effectiveness and predictors of effectiveness in formal mentorship programs; and (c) to provide a framework for future research.

Literature Review

Ostroff and Kozlowski (1993) suggest that mentoring can have its most dramatic impact soon after new members join the organization. Although this is the time of greatest potential influence, it may also be the time when mentoring relationships are least likely to occur naturally due to their limelight status but precarious position as newcomers, their lack of self-confidence in establishing new relationships or time constraints (Ragins and Cotton, 1991). Also, because they are new, potential mentees will lack the knowledge of and exposure to experienced organizational members who might serve as mentors. Not wanting to appear unknowledgeable, insecure or bothersome, newcomers will be reluctant to turn to supervisors or co-workers for information and guidance. Factors such as these strongly support the idea that formal mentorship programs are necessary in organizations, particularly for newcomers (Ostroff and Kozlowski, 1993).

Despite widespread interest in assigned mentorship programs (Burke et al., 1991; Burke et al., 1990; Odiorne, 1985; Phillips-Jones, 1983) and many calls for future research in this area (Gaskill, 1991; Ragins and Cotton, 1991; Whitely et al., 1992), almost no empirical research has been conducted on the topic of formal mentorships. Notable exceptions are studies by Noe (1988) and Chao et al. (1992). Noe (1988), in his study of a formal mentoring program in secondary education, found that mentees reported receiving higher levels of psychosocial versus career outcomes from assigned mentors. Indicated barriers to more effective relationships were conflicting work schedules, time demands, and lack of physical proximity.

In research based on alumni responses from a midwestern university and a small private institute, Chao et al. (1992) reported no significant differences between those involved in formal versus informal mentorship programs on socialization, intrinsic and extrinsic satisfaction, and salary outcome measures. …

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