Mentoring in Construction: Benefits and Best Practices
Mentoring is important for professional development of employees in all roles in the construction industry. At its core, mentoring is a learning relationship. Mentorship relationships can be a two-way street, where both the mentor as well as the mentee are able to learn, grow and support one another. As the construction industry faces unprecedented talent challenges, mentoring needs to be an intentional process and a strategic imperative. Leaders of construction firms need to understand the benefits of mentoring in the construction industry and the best practices for building successful mentorship relationships.
According to mentorcliQ, a mentoring technology company, 92% of all US Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. At its basic level, mentoring is the transferring knowledge, wisdom and experience from one person to another. In a mentoring relationship the mentor shares their expertise and provides guidance to the mentee, with the goal of helping them develop and grow and professionally. Mentored employees are generally more productive, engaged, and satisfied with their jobs.
Mentoring in Construction Benefits:
Career development: Mentoring gives the mentee an opportunity to acquire new skills, techniques, and receive guidance and support as they navigate their professional growth. Mentors help mentees to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, give guidance on how to develop and grow their abilities, and plan their career paths, providing valuable guidance and support along the way. Mentorship can help workers develop the soft skills needed to succeed, such as communication, problem-solving, and leadership, as well as provide guidance on aligning with company culture, workplace etiquette and overall expectations.
“As you develop people, remember that you are taking them on the journey towards success with you, not sending them, author John Maxwell wrote in Mentoring 101. “Stay with them until they’re ready to fly. And when they are ready, get them on their way.”
Opportunities for networking: Mentoring will help build solid relationships and provide valuable contacts in the construction sector. Mentors can introduce potential clients, partners and colleagues to the mentee, which can be invaluable for their career growth and progression.
Improved performance: Mentoring can help grow mentees through constructive feedback, effective questions, guidance and support. Mentors can help their mentee develop new work habits that will allow them to be more productive in their job. Mentors can offer a broader perspective and greater insight into a particular industry or profession. This can help mentees to better understand the challenges they face and develop strategies for overcoming them, which in turn can boost their confidence in their ability to succeed and their overall performance.
Mentoring can improve confidence: For both the mentor and mentee, a positive mentoring relationship can build confidence and trust. Mentors provide guidance, advice and support to their mentees which can help them to develop new skills and abilities. As the mentee becomes more proficient in a particular area, they will naturally gain confidence in their abilities.
Formal mentoring programs increase engagement and retention: mentorcliQ also reported that Fortune 500 companies with mentoring programs were significantly more resilient against employee quitting trends that reigned in 2021, with a median year-over-year employee growth of just over 3%. Meanwhile, Fortune 500 companies without mentoring programs had a median decrease of 33% in their number of employees.
Mentoring programs can advance diversity efforts: Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level by 9% to 24% (compared to -2% to 18% with other diversity initiatives). The same Cornell study also found that mentoring programs also dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.
Succession planning: As experienced professionals retire or leave the construction industry; mentorship programs can help ensure that there are skilled workers ready to step into their roles at all levels of the organization. By passing on their knowledge and skills to the next generation, mentors help ensure your company and the industry remains strong and vibrant for years to come.
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”John Maxwell
Best Practices to Build a Successful Mentorship Relationship:
Establish goals: The overall mentoring program needs to be tailored to the specific needs and objectives of your organization. Both mentor and mentor should set clear goals for the mentoring relationship. This will ensure that both parties are focused and committed to achieving their goals.
“People almost always think of the mentor as the really active element. The mentee is the passive element, absorbing the mentor’s knowledge,” said Brian Uzzi, a professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “Some of that’s true, but it turns out it’s really not a one-way arrow. It’s incumbent upon the mentee to branch out, take their mentor’s tacit knowledge, and do something that breaks new ground. The mentee has a big responsibility for their own success.” Research from Uzzi shows that mentorship is indeed beneficial—especially when mentors pass down unwritten, intuitive forms of knowledge.
Communication: Regular communication is crucial for a successful mentorship relationship. Mentor and mentee need to agree on the frequency of their meetings. Ideally, interactions should be done in person, but with the demands of construction projects this is not always realistic. If necessary, communication can be done via virtual meetings or phone.
Be honest and open with your mentor: Mentors and mentees should be open to each other. Mentors must provide constructive feedback and address challenging topics. Mentors should be available to offer it, while mentees need to be open and honest. “There is no development without hard lessons. Almost all growth comes when we have positive responses to negative things,” said Maxwell. The mentoring environment should be a safe space to ask questions without judgment, allowing mentees the opportunity to have private conversations that may be awkward out at a jobsite.
Respect one another’s time: Mentors as well as mentees must be respectful of the other’s work and their schedules. While mentors should be available for their mentees, the mentee must be considerate of their mentor’s constraints.
Realistic expectations: Both mentors and mentees should have realistic expectations of their mentorship relationship. The mentor shouldn’t promise to solve all mentee’s problems but be able to listen and provide perspectives and insight. They should instead guide and support them on their path. Early in the process, set expectations around the mentorship should mean to both the mentor and the mentee.
Mentor your mentors: Since not all managers are created equal, all managers may not be suited to mentor others. By providing training and a framework for your mentors, you can prepare them for success.
In the construction industry, the mentoring process is most effective when it is a positive and inspiring experience for both the mentor and mentee. A good mentor should strive to create a supportive and engaging environment that fosters growth, development and learning. Mentors should be invested in their mentee’s success and work to build a strong relationship built on trust and respect. The mentoring process should not feel like a drain on energy or a burden, but rather an opportunity to share knowledge and experience, and to make a positive impact on someone’s life. By keeping the process positive and motivational, both the mentor and mentee are likely to be more engaged, committed and inspired to achieve their goals, leading to a more productive and rewarding mentoring experience for everyone involved.
Mentorship is an interesting opportunity to help address the talent challenges in construction by increasing employee engagement though a focus on personal development. Effective mentoring relationships need to be based on voluntary engagement by both parties, mutual respect for each person’s individuality, and must include reflection. At the same time, a mentoring relationship can be rewarding for both parties. Mentoring in construction is a great way to both benefit the mentors and the mentee. Construction company leadership must recognize that training, or the passing of knowledge and skill, is not an expense today, but rather an investment in tomorrow.