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Tips for Building a Deep Mentor Pool

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Being paired with a mentor can help new engineers navigate company processes, understand the culture and become productive more quickly. In fact, a study by Deloitte found that 80 percent of learning takes place informally, making interactions between mentors and mentees crucial for transferring knowledge.

Mentor with Contractor Having Discussion In Office

Having a deep pool of mentors makes it easier to achieve productive matches based on criteria such as geography, communication style and subject matter expertise. But just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.

Most companies need to recruit, train and promote the benefits of participation to increase the ranks of volunteers. Here are some tips for building a team of effective and highly engaged mentors for your engineering firm.

Lay the Foundation

Establishing program goals and selecting an appropriate model will help you determine the ideal composition and size of your mentoring pool. For instance, will every new contractor, employee and intern be assigned to a mentor? How long will the relationships last? What types of knowledge, skills and experience will benefit the mentees? How will mentors be assigned and evaluated? Being able to answer questions about the responsibilities, time commitment and structure will help you attract mentors and garner executive support for your program.

Offer Reciprocal Benefits

To encourage volunteers, the program must offer benefits to mentors as well as mentees. Appealing perks for mentors include recognition as a subject matter expert, development of leadership and coaching abilities and the opportunity to build managerial skills. Most mentors also want the opportunity to learn from each other and rub elbows with firm execs at social events and retreats. Being strongly committed to an environment that encourages professionals to seek learning and professional growth can position your firm as a top employer for contractors and regular full-time engineers.

Promote the Program and Recruit

Create excitement by promoting the program, its goals, objectives and the enrollment process. However, personalized outreach is usually the most effective way to secure commitments from influential professionals who will be a magnet for their peers.

When recruiting mentors, it’s best to target individuals who not only possess the required experience that will benefit mentees but the personality traits and soft skills that will allow them to communicate and connect on a deeper level. However, as mentoring expert, David Clutterbuck points out, mentoring isn’t an innate skill, so engineering leaders must be prepared to build their own.

Offering initial training, coaching and performance feedback can help you attract engineers who want to expand their horizons, gain visibility or move into a leadership role. Executive sponsorship can send a strong signal of endorsement to aspiring professionals who have been searching for a venue to showcase their abilities.

Provide Support and Flexibility

Once the nucleus is in place, increase the size of your pool through peer recruitment and by publicizing mentoring events and success stories. Inspire positive outcomes by providing ongoing support and feedback as the relationships progress. Assign new mentors to experienced mentors and encourage learning and best practices through online resources, speakers, webinars and lunch and learn seminars. Giving mentors the flexibility to activate or deactivate based on their workloads will alleviate time concerns and encourage participation. And as your pool deepens, you’ll be able to serve more mentees without overburdening mentors.

As Clutterbuck noted, when mentors feel supported, they are more likely to want to do this again and again and again.

Other information of potential interest

Emerging Strategies for Managing an Agile Workforce

How to Attract and Hire Creative Engineering Talent

Becoming a Client of Choice for Contract Engineers

4 Workplace Trends You Can’t Ignore

Secrets to Competing with Google & Facebook for Top Technical Talent

Compensation Planning 2016: 4 Forecasts and Trends in Engineering

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