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Mentoring is important in every industry—including construction. Even though there are many internships and apprenticeships available to contractors, those programs are typically available to teach a trade. A mentorship program has another objective—to give new employees, supervisors and managers the opportunity to learn from seasoned leaders. It also allows for senior leaders to learn from their younger associates.

Mentoring was once considered a “nice-to-have” program to help supervisors and managers achieve their goals. Mentoring is now considered a “must-have” program for all employees in most industries. Mentoring provides the opportunity for everyone in the organization to have a safe space to discuss career goals and objectives while being guided by someone with experience in the area. The role of a mentor is to focus on the professional and personal growth and development of the mentee, develop the mentee’s long-term management and leadership skills, and to work with the mentee on critical decision-making skills.

The mentoring relationship can be mutually beneficial to both the mentor and mentee as they inspire, innovate, learn and grow together. Warren Berger, the author of “A More Beautiful Question,” states that when the world gets more complicated and complex, people need to question more because they must be learning and changing. Berger asserts that people need questioning now more than ever. The mentoring relationship is the perfect place to build construction employees’ capacity to grow as questioners and active listeners.

Create a Mentoring Culture

PGi released a study that dove into the millennial mindset. Of the millennials who participated in the survey, 71% stated that they wanted meaningful connections at work and hope to find a “second family” in their coworkers. Additionally, 75% of the millennials surveyed view mentoring as crucial to their success. 

In the same survey, 70% of non-millennials said they are open to reverse mentoring. They acknowledge that 20- and 30-somethings have more technical knowledge and engage in more innovative practices than their older counterparts. Generations of employees can therefore learn from each other through mentoring.

Most millennials named “not a good cultural fit” as one of the top reasons why they left their job in the first three years. To retain this cohort in the workforce, contractors need to align their culture to meet the needs of millennials. This should help a multigenerational workforce to have a more meaningful support system and better connections on the job.

Mentoring is Good for Diversity and Inclusion

Mentoring programs are critical to promoting diversity and inclusion efforts. In general, they help employees develop a sense of belonging, support traditionally underrepresented groups, increase promotion rates, and foster understanding between cultural groups.

One study by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev at Harvard University analyzed the impact of mentoring, voluntary training, self-managed teams, cross-training, college recruitment, diversity task forces, and diversity managers on the representation of African American, Hispanic, and Asian men and women at the manager level. The researchers found that mentoring had the largest impact of all strategies, resulting in an increase of representation of minorities at the manager level by 9% to 24%.

Formal Mentoring promotes Diversity and Inclusion

Many organizations recognize the impact of mentorship on advancing diversity and fostering inclusivity. However, many companies rely on informal mentorship. They recommend that employees’ mentor but not offer support such as resources, funding, mentor matching and a formal process. If the intent of the program is to promote diversity, it is simply not realistic to expect that informal mentorship will achieve this goal.

Too often, informal mentorship is not diverse mentorship. Unfortunately, when many people reach out to mentor informally, they reach out to people in their own likeness. Lean In found that one in six male managers feel uncomfortable mentoring women. Lean In also showed 60% of men in the United States are uneasy performing “common workplace activities” alone with a woman.

These studies also showed that women and minorities usually connect with their mentors through formal programs. Formal mentoring programs offer an established, credible, and supported way for men to mentor women and minorities.

Study after study proves that there is no downside to mentoring if the program is well-engineered. Mentors and mentees are more engaged and better positioned for advancement. Engagement equals retention and retention saves time and money. Across the board, companies that invest in formal workplace mentoring programs experience substantial returns on their investment. DDI World disclosed in its Mentoring Global Leadership Forecast (2018) that 54% of organizations in the top third of financial performance have formal mentoring programs, as opposed to 33% of organizations in the bottom third.


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