CANR Peer Program

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR)
Peer Program

What is a peer?

A peer is someone who partners with a new, regular staff employee during their first six months of employment. While primarily responsible for offering advice and guidance regarding the day-to-day aspects of working at Michigan State University, the peer may also offer encouragement and knowledge resources as they help introduce the new employee to the MSU and CANR culture. We encourage CANR employees to volunteer to add their name to the CANR Peer List – it is a wonderful opportunity to grow leadership skills and help a new employee adjust to a large institution like MSU.

Key characteristics of a peer include:

• Communicator: A peer should encourage open communication. The peer should provide relevant information to the new employee and encourage a process of continued growth and learning.
• Motivated: The peer should have a positive outlook on their work and use that perspective to help build self-confidence and loyalty in the new employee. The peer should lead by example.
• Knowledgeable: The peer can help guide the new employee in many situations based on their own experience and knowledge obtained in their years of working at MSU.

Why have a peer?

The purpose of new CANR employees being assigned a peer is to help welcome employees and reaffirm their decision to join MSU. It provides new employees with a reliable, motivated, additional point of contact for their basic questions regarding their work experience at MSU. It also helps establish onboarding as a process, rather than a single learning event. Other advantages of having a peer include:

• Build on the knowledge obtained during MSU’s New Employee Welcome Presentation (Preparing for Your First Day ( and the individual department/unit onboarding process.
• Enable new employees to become knowledgeable about department practices and organizational culture in a shorter period.
• Ensure that routine questions regarding basic operational issues are dealt with expeditiously.
• Reduce the initial confusion and uncertainty faced by all new employees. Peers will be especially effective for employees who are working remotely by providing an additional point of connection and resource.
• Maximize the productivity of manager/new employee meetings by allowing them to focus on job-specific issues.
• Increase the new employee’s self-confidence by allowing them to focus on adding value to the organization.
• Provide a point of contact that is outside of the hiring unit, increasing the new employee’s networking circle.

What the peer expects from their new employee:

• The new employee will receive constructive guidance in good spirit.
• The new employee will display a “coachable” attitude.
• The new employee will display an eagerness to learn.

Peer Selection Criteria:

CANR Human Resources can recommend and select a peer for the new employee – selections will come from the CANR Peer List of volunteers. If there is not an appropriate recommendation, CANR HR may reach out directly to units to identify and recruit peers. Selections will be based on the following characteristics:

• Must have worked at MSU for at least two years and be currently employed in a regular staff position in CANR.
• Demonstrates satisfactory performance.
• Is provided time (from their own unit) to be accessible to the new employee.
• Has knowledge regarding the aspects of the new employee’s job.
• Is proud of MSU and CANR and their contributions to the organization.
• Is a peer of the new employee. A peer should not be appointed in the same unit as the new employee.
• Has patience and good communication and interpersonal skills.
• Wants to be a peer – interested in helping a new employee be successful.
• Is well regarded, accepted, and respected by current employees.

What a peer is “not”:

A peer shall not be required to assume any of the following roles:
• Mentor: Someone, typically more experienced, who is involved with the all-around development of an individual (personal and/or professional).
• Supervisor/Manager: Someone responsible for the new employee’s job performance. If questions arise regarding performance, disciplinary or policy matters, the peer is free to give their opinion and advice on how to approach the situation. However, they are not in a position to resolve the matter. The new employee must be directed to their supervisor or HR representative for resolution of the relevant issue(s).
• Expert: A peer is not expected to have all the answers. A peer should offer support and help direct new employees to the correct resources.
• Trainer: A peer is not responsible for providing on-the-job training to the new employee – this responsibility lies with the hiring unit to provide necessary training. Peers may answer questions if they are able.

Peer Responsibilities:

• Contact and meet with the new employee within their first week of work.
• Establish a rapport with the new employee.
• Have lunch with the new employee three times during the first six months of employment – CANR will provide lunch tickets to cover the cost of the lunches on campus (i.e. Brody cafeteria). It is encouraged that the first lunch take place within the first two weeks of employment. Remaining two lunches may be scheduled at the convenience of the new employee and peer.
• Act as an informational resource on policies and procedures.
• Help socialize the new employee to MSU’s guidelines, norms, and culture.
• Answer general/routine questions.
• Make introductions to appropriate networking peers.
• Ensure open communication between the new employee and the peer, respecting confidentiality.
• Follow up with the new employee on a weekly basis during the first two months of employment, bi-weekly during the third and fourth month of employment, and at least monthly during the fifth and sixth month of employment. Meetings are expected to only last 15 minutes and may be held virtually through Zoom or MS Teams.

Suggested meeting guidelines are as follows:

Formal Relationship – peer/new employee formal relationship should last for six months.
• Week One –
o Peer reaches out to new employee to introduce themselves as the assigned peer.
o Meet new employee for lunch at agreed upon on-campus location.
• Scheduled weekly meetings during first two months – 15 minutes in duration (meetings to be held virtually through Zoom or MS Teams).
o Bi-weekly meetings during third and fourth months.
o Monthly meetings during fifth and six months.
• Calls or e-mails with questions or topics as needed. Peer to set acceptable parameters.

Informal Relationship – open.

• The peer can provide continued support beyond the six-month expiration of the formal relationship if such support is warranted and welcomed by the new employee.

Tips for Peers:

• Do not worry about being perceived as the “expert”. Focus your attention on the new employee. You are there for support – you are not expected to know the answer to every question.
• Be patient: It takes time to develop a relationship. Do not try to cover everything immediately.
• Be positive: New employees will grow into their roles if given the proper reinforcement.
• Do not try to force a relationship.
• Try to identify the new employee’s personality and communication style and adapt accordingly.
• Do not be judgmental. Simply offer feedback.
• Maintain a positive outlook and a teaching spirit.

Program Participation:

We encourage you to share this information within your unit. CANR is looking for volunteers to be “peers” from existing staff. We will keep names on the CANR Volunteer Peer List and will hopefully be able to pair the volunteer peer to a new employee in the future.

Please visit this link to either volunteer to be a peer, or to request a peer for a new employee that is scheduled to begin work, or has recently begun work: 

Questions may be directed to:

• Renee Gagnier, CANR Human Resources, Director – or
• Richard Chester, CANR Human Resources, Assistant Director – 

**NOTE: The peer/new employee relationship may be ended early by either the peer or the new employee. This is a voluntary program with no formal expectations or outcomes. The goal is to support our new employees and provide them the opportunity to be successful in their new position.