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Mentoring in Auto Body Shops: It All Starts with a Program Manager

As shops struggle to find skilled workers, mentoring programs can be a win-win for your business, as well as for the industry as a whole.

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Kyle Holt is the president of S/P2, an online safety and pollution prevention training system for the automotive, heavy-duty/diesel, welding, construction, cosmetology and culinary industries.

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In the October 2017 “Health & Safety” column, we talked about how mentoring programs can offer an opportunity for skilled technicians in your shop to share their expertise with a less experienced person in order to put them on the fast track to competency in a new career. As shops struggle to find skilled workers, mentoring programs can be a win-win for your business, as well as for the industry as a whole.

But how do you start a mentoring program? It all starts with a mentoring program manager.

Manager Responsibilities

Every successful program needs an advocate and a champion. In a mentoring program, that role falls to the program manager, who manages the program, as well as the relationship between the mentors and mentees.

An effective program manager understands and promotes the value of the program; recognizes the skills needed in mentors and mentees; respects and supports all participants and wants them to succeed; models best practices for workplace safety and communication; and exhibits fairness when evaluating the performance of program participants.

What are some of the responsibilities of the program manager? Typically, a mentoring program manager:

  • Maps an action plan to outline the skills and knowledge each mentee must learn over the course of the program
  • Creates task lists and evaluations in collaboration with mentors
  • Recruits mentors and mentees, then matches and on-boards those mentoring teams
  • Provides mentors and mentees the resources and structure they need to succeed
  • Ensures everyone is following the program guidelines
  • Establishes pay, rewards and incentives for participants
  • Oversees risk management for the program, including insurance-policy coverage reviews
  • Seeks strategic partnerships with the community or local businesses
  • Handles problem-solving and conflict resolution, and determines when to end partnerships that aren’t working
  • Ensures that safety is a priority, including training as required by OSHA and the EPA

Ongoing Tasks

Once the program begins, the mentoring program manager will have the roles and responsibilities for support, advising and evaluation. They will assess mentor goals and task achievements in order to properly assess the program’s progress, step in to help resolve problems, and provide resources to the mentoring partners. It’s important for the manager to model good communication throughout.

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Though the manager will have scheduled meetings with the mentors and mentees, regular communication is important. This includes frequent, short conversations to talk through the challenges and successes of the mentoring relationships. This keeps the manager in the loop during the program’s entirety so there aren’t any major surprises at the end.

The program manager also meets with the mentor individually to gain insight about areas in which the mentee is having success or facing challenges. This allows them to talk openly and revise the task list or schedule as needed.

Program Wrap-Up and Evaluation

When the program ends, the manager meets with the mentor and mentee to evaluate it. This is a time to seek honest feedback to help make the program more successful. With ongoing communication, hopefully there won’t be any surprises in this evaluation.

As the program wraps up, the manager should determine:

  • Whether both the mentor and mentee met their goals
  • The most important things they learned during the program
  • Any unexpected challenges
  • How the partnership has helped each of them grow
  • How the company can improve the experience in the future

The manager should also acknowledge each participant with awards, certificates or other recognition. This can be a fun event for the business as a whole and help other employees see the value of the program.

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Program Success

Ultimately, most businesses have a goal to bring mentees on board as employees once they’ve finished the program. The manager should be prepared for this possibility as the program concludes, including if, when and how to offer the mentee full-time employment; job title and compensation details; how to show them a career path; and what additional certificates and training they may need to help them achieve more professional and financial success.

With a well-thought-out action plan and motivated mentors, your mentoring program is likely to succeed and meet this goal.

In future columns, we’ll discuss the roles of mentor and mentee and how they contribute to a successful mentoring program in your shop.

S/P2 is piloting a comprehensive online mentoring program specifically for the automotive industry. Contact S/P2 for details!

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