New employees at SDN Communications get more than a supervisor. They’re also assigned a mentor to help settle into their new environment.
Sioux Falls-based SDN’s new mentorship program is designed to connect new staff members with established colleagues outside their department.
Mentors can help new employees learn more about the company, its products and its people. They also might be able to explain the company’s policy on potluck lunches, for example, or help with personality awareness and bonding with co-workers.
Ideally, the connection also will help improve internal communications and boost overall employee satisfaction.
“A lot of times, a person may not be comfortable going to their supervisor for something that isn’t job-related,” says Amy Preator, director of human resources for SDN. “We hope the mentoring program helps with communications and keeps employees around. We want them to feel connected.”
SDN provides broadband connectivity and related cyber services for businesses and institutions in the region. The high-tech communications company employs about 160 full- and part-time employees.
Overall, new employees’ questions to mentors might pertain more to corporate culture than to operations, Preator says.
Brigid Hertaus, a human relations associate at SDN, notes that new employees often are new to the community as well as to the company. So, the program also can help them with questions about the community, too.
“It gives them someone to go to, so they get to know someone outside their department,” Hertaus says.
SDN launched the program in April of 2016 and has assigned mentors to seven new employees. Program guidelines suggest that mentors and mentees meet periodically and stay in touch through email for a few months.
The two can continue to meet after the first 100 days, if they choose. Mentees provide regular feedback online.
Shannon Mack is a veteran employee who serves as a mentor. As a switching technician with 20 years of experience at SDN, he’s mentoring Casey Swanson, a recently hired software engineer.
The two have had lunch together a few times, and Mack is available for any questions his Swanson might have in the future.
“What made it fairly easy for me is we weren’t his first employer. Casey pretty well hit the ground running,” Mack says.
Mack’s been happy to serve as a mentor and benefitted from his conversations with Swanson. He sees value in the program for the SDN.
“Things like this are normal. It’s a very employee-friendly company,” he says.
Factors such as gender and age are considered in matching mentors and mentees, but personality is probably the biggest factor, says Preator, the lead matchmaker.
The program isn’t just for rank-and-file employees either. Preator will match any new managers with a mentor too – someone who is likely another manager.
Nationally, some companies use mentoring programs to achieve specific goals, such as increasing sales. Strengthening employee retention is a goal at SDN because the company is based in an area with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. The jobless rate in the four-county metro area is less than half the national rate of 4.9 percent.
That can make finding and hiring good, skilled workers in the Sioux Falls area challenging and keeping them there even more important.
Visit SDN's Careers section to get more information about employment opportunities with the company.