Mentoring is a human resource (HR) tool. It is increasingly considered for on-the-job training. Smart managers who learn to develop and apply a technical mentoring process have an HR advantage.
During this time of tech shortage, only 20% of all technical managers will be committed enough to properly use the tool of mentoring. Approximately 80% of managers want an easy fix and aren’t willing to learn or invest in what it takes.
When haphazardly implemented, mentoring fails will create internal conflict. However, to be able to grow your own technicians — in-house, over and over — is a worthy goal!
Here are five tips for successful technical mentoring:
1. BEFORE You Hire Mentees, Assess Your Business
Assess your business and staff to see if the environment lends itself to productive mentoring. Some managers are so desperate for help that they fling words around like “mentoring” to help hire without understanding what it is and what support structure is needed.
Do a simple self-assessment: draw a line down the middle of a blank page. On the right side, write: “Why we can win using mentoring.” On the left side, “Obstacles to mentoring.” Ask two or three staff to do the same. Compare and edit down to one page. Write down anything that comes to mind. Include generational differences, mentors, mentor compensation, relationships with local CTE programs and need for tools.
Expect to have someone point out that entry-level mentees are young, less stable, tend to stay out late and struggle to make good decisions. (Remember what you were like from age 18 to 25).
If you’re turning over a lot of techs, that is a predictor of poor success in mentoring. Check your churn! Stabilize staff before trying to implement a mentoring system.
2. Start Editing to a One-Page Plan
Once you compare thoughts, you almost have a simple written plan. Planning reveals whether a manager can understand and communicate the basics.
Write down the “W’s” … who, what, where, when and why. As your writing captures key ideas, offer the plan to someone you respect (your office manager, spouse, accountant, mentor). Invite honest feedback … and listen! Improve on the plan.
A one- to two-page written plan explains the basics of how your system might operate. Less yak, more act. Those who blah, blah, blah and yak, yak, yak seldom provide anything written. A plan at its simplest is a written checklist.
3. Identify the Mentor Manager BEFORE Mentors and Mentees
Mentoring needs a guide to manage the team(s). It is not a full-time job. So, if it is not you, then who?
A mentor manager must be available to answer questions, implement strategy and make quick decisions on behalf of the team. After a month or so, this is likely to be only one to two hours a week.
Success depends on the mentor manager. This person must care and buy in. The candidate for mentor manager may be working in-shop, but for some businesses the person works in the office and may have little or no technical experience but lots of people skills. Find someone who enjoys seeing others grow.
Mentor managers must have authority to do what is necessary on behalf of the team(s).
4. BEFORE The Mentee Arrives… Inform In-House Mentor Prospects
With the mentor manager aboard, inform all staff that you would like to identify and discuss technicians who may qualify to mentor.
Sometimes a lunch and learn is a great way to positively introduce how mentoring might work. Here are some things to share:
- Explain how you see mentoring working
- Invite techs to interview as mentors
- Provide a simple job description for those interested
- Explain benefits of mentoring and touch on compensation possibilities (discuss details privately and individually)
- Answer mentor prospects questions and be open to suggestions
Be clear that not everyone has the experience or desire to be a mentor.
5. Be Prepared
Be prepared well ahead of time before the mentee arrives. Get a simple plan ready, get your team ready.
You’re in a HR competition for workers considering many industries. Sell them on your industry, your company and your plan for them. Show them you have a mentoring program in place that will help them grow faster than anywhere else.