How 6AM City created a company-wide mentorship program for new hires that actually works
Focusing on company values and culture, flexibility, and one-on-one connection forges deep links for disparate employees
Since the beginning, 6AM’s mission has been to deliver engaging, hyper-local newsletters to readers in cities where we’ve opened a market (currently seven, all in the Southeastern US). That mission depends on a two-way dialogue between our product — the newsletter — and the readers in our market. It’s a conversation that brings our readers and advertisers in on their cities, building pride in our communities, and providing the content our readers need to know.
But the success of our product also depends on that same communication happening within the company, on every level of the organization. As we expand to become the most relevant local media platform in the US by 2022, our team is, by necessity, also scaling up. What started with a team of three in 2016 has grown to 29 employees across almost hundreds of miles. Those employees make up who we are in all of our departments — from editorial to advertising, growth to marketing, and more.
Sustainable growth requires a strong foundation. Like a tree, our Mentorship Program ensures that we’re all growing from the same root system. And for us, those roots are the company values: Engagement, Curiosity, Acting Like an Owner, Responding with Agility, and Pride in Place.
Those values, by the way, were themselves created out of a collaborative, team-building effort two years ago that brought a group of employees together to discover, together, what lay at the heart of our company and our product, both within our organization and as we relate to our audiences. As we have evolved, so have those values, becoming more defined and refined and providing critical touchpoints for our staff and audience, which has grown to about 1,000,000 readers across our newsletter, website, and social media since we launched.
When we began developing the Mentorship Program, we quickly realized that grounding it in our values — as well as our mission of Doing. Positive. Service. — would start to build the foundation necessary to carry our brand across the country while also helping our disparate team members feel connected to one another and to 6AM’s company culture. With the values at the heart, we developed a program for new hires that is –
- Comprehensive. We deep dive into each value, discussing 6AM’s official definition alongside our personal definitions and experiences from work and life.
- Efficient. We start new employees in the program within the first month of hiring and meet six times over six weeks, for one hour.
- Connective. Mentors and mentees are purposefully matched across markets to create synergy, and meetings are held virtually and face-to-face.
- Organic. While the value of the day drives our discussion, flexibility exists around how that value is framed, creating a conversational flow between mentors and mentees and leveraging the unique experiences each team member brings to the table.
- Dynamic. Beyond talking through each value, optional activities offer additional opportunities for creativity and play within the meetings.
The structure of the program includes many opportunities for feedback. Surveys at the beginning and end of the six weeks encourage honest reflection on how the program supports new employees as they navigate the early days of their careers with 6AM, and the answers help mentors refine their approaches for the next round.
The Mentorship Program is also built to be expanded. Currently, program directors are innovating opportunities for longer-term employees of 6AM to receive mentorship in topics ranging from time management to leadership development, with the ultimate goal of establishing a Mentorship + Mastery Program available to the entire company. Not only will program leaders still introduce new hires to our company culture, but they will also work with company managers to support employees as they implement quarterly feedback to turn areas for growth into areas of strength and expertise.
Mentorship has been one of 6AM’s greatest gifts to its employees, on both sides of the program. As the program grows, mentees — armed with what they learned and their own accumulated wealth of experiences — have begun moving into positions as mentors, stepping into their rightful places as the next wave of leaders within the company and bringing us closer together, even as our world gets a little bit bigger.