Investing in our Newest Employees Pays Dividends
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos
I have some good news to share about our efforts to improve the retention of patent examiners past their probationary period. New employees seem to be most vulnerable to attrition during their first three years with the USPTO. So a little over a year ago, we established the New Examiner Mentoring Program pilot, designed to help new employees transition into the USPTO and even the Washington, D.C. area if they were moving to the community as new residents. Fifty of the examiners who joined us on either August 30 or September 27 last year requested a mentor. Most mentors were selected from the agency’s network of 11 affinity groups.
Throughout the probationary period for these new employees, affinity groups held structured enrichment sessions on soft topics – things of interest in D.C., transitioning to the technology center, etc. In the end, attrition of examiners with mentors was 4% (2 out of 50), compared to 8.4% (7 out of 83) for examiners without mentors. The program sustained itself without use of nonproduction time.
These results are leading us to expand the New Examiner Mentoring Program pilot to 200 new examiners in FY 2012, partnering with the Patent and Trademark Office Society, and acquiring mentor-matching software. When we look at the benefits associated with retaining examiners who are costly to recruit and on-board, we are quite optimistic about expanding this pilot project.