“With the workforce shortages and retiring experienced workers, can we use mentoring to help answer the problem”?
In this article the goal is to define the skills to mentor and ask the question, “How can we help the retiring workforce mentor the youth?
What is Mentoring?
Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development. The “mentor” is usually an experienced individual who shares knowledge, experience, and advice with a less experienced person, or “novice.”
Mentors become trusted advisers and role models – people who have “been there” and “done that.” They support and encourage their novices by offering suggestions and knowledge, both general and specific. The goal is help mentees improve their skills and, hopefully, advance their careers. The relationship should be based on mutual trust and respect, and it typically offers personal and professional advantages for both parties.
Skills for Mentoring
To be a good mentor, you need similar skills to those used in coaching, with one big difference – you must have experience relevant to the novice’s situation. This can be technical experience, management experience, or simply life experience.
To be an effective mentor, you need to:
Have the desire to help– you should be willing to spend time helping someone else, and remain positive throughout.
Be motivated to continue developing and growing – your own development never stops. To help others develop, you must value your own growth too. Many mentors say that mentoring helps them with their own personal development.
Have confidence and a clear manner– we don’t mean overconfidence or a big ego. Rather, you should have the ability to critique and challenge novices in a way that’s non-threatening, and helps them look at a situation from a new perspective.
Ask the right questions– the best mentors ask questions that make the novice do the thinking. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. A simple guide is to think of what you want to tell the novice, and to find a question that will help the novice come to the same conclusion on their own. To do this, try asking open questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no. Or ask more direct questions that offer several answer options. Then ask the mentee why they chose that particular answer.
Listen actively – be careful to process everything the novice is saying. Watch body language, maintain eye contact, and understand which topics are difficult for the mentee to discuss. Showing someone that you’re listening is a valuable skill in itself. It shows that you value what the person is saying and that you won’t interrupt them. This requires patience, and a willingness to delay judgment.
Provide feedback – do this in a way that accurately and objectively summarizes what you’ve heard, but also interprets things in a way that adds value for the novice. In particular, use feedback to show that you understand what the novice’s thinking approach has been. This is key to helping the novice see a situation from another perspective.
Remember, mentoring is about transferring information, competence, and experience to novices, so that they can make good use of this, and build their confidence accordingly. As a mentor, you are there to encourage, nurture, and provide support, because you’ve already “walked the path” of the novice.
Do you currently have a mentor program in place? Have you tried to implement one and run into difficulties. I would love to hear everyone’s input on the subject and if this is the way to transfer the knowledge to the next generation of construction craftsmen.