Mentorships: Can They Work for Me?
Training new employees can be a difficult task, no matter what industry you’re in. In our office, much like many tree care companies, we’ve utilized a mentorship strategy to bring new employees up to speed as soon as possible. A mentorship program typically includes more individual attention than group training or orientation programs. Often times, situations arise that can’t be learned from a text book. The mentor is there to provide real life experience to fast track the learning process. Below is a conversation from when we had Ryan interview Malcolm and I on how we’ve used the mentorship process within our agency.
Ryan: Why did you choose to implement a mentorship strategy?
Eric: With any new hire, we feel it is critical to establish a solid working partnership that benefits everyone. We utilize a one on one approach to help ensure the employee’s career development within our culture. To us, development goes beyond the professional setting to include the creation of a healthy work/life balance.
Ryan: Malcolm, what have the major advantages been for you with your mentor?
Malcolm: The most obvious benefit is being able to find quick solutions as I gain knowledge important to my role. On top of that, it helps to have someone like Eric who is invested in my success that will ultimately push me in the right direction. When I come up with ideas or pain points in my career, Eric is there to give me support, or play a devil’s advocate role.
Eric: From an employer’s perspective, being able to spend time directly with the new hire has helped our organization in a number of ways. As Malcolm mentioned, it allows the new hire to become better at their position in a much shorter amount of time. Outside of boosting efficiency, we are also able to connect on a personal level which ultimately helps build a culture of employee retention and satisfaction.
Ryan: What challenges have you noticed using this process?
Eric: A critical piece to a successful mentorship program is time management. The mentor needs to hold themselves accountable by ensuring that they are available to the new hire, while also staying on top of their own work. Even though I have had a number of new hires under me over the years, this has remained the largest challenge for me.
Malcolm: For me, a big challenge was determining which tasks I needed to take to Eric and which tasks I should have figured out on my own. I felt the mentor should always be there to answer questions, however, sometimes I was nervous to even ask.
Ryan: How can your mentorship experience translate to the tree care world?
Malcolm: When I see my clients using these programs, I get excited because I know what it will do for their business. I had insurance experience prior to joining Eric’s team, and while the mentorship certainly helped with my insurance knowledge, it also gave me a more personal feel for ArboRisk’s values and overall operations. Because company values are so important in the tree care industry, I think this program is a great way to ensure new hires operate under those values.
Eric: There is no comparison to the individualized attention a mentor can give for the safe and productive development of a great team member. With all of the dangers in the tree care world, learning from your own mistakes may not offer a second chance. A mentor can take a new employee under their wing and help them avoid close calls by sharing their personal stories.
The most successful mentorship programs that I’ve seen in the tree care industry, involve upper management that is dedicated to developing their workforce despite the understanding that not all employees will be with their business forever. These employers are satisfied by helping individuals reach their own goals and developing their professionalism.
Lastly, I’ve witnessed firsthand that if no formal mentorship program is in place, unofficial mentors will become the internal voice of the company, ultimately creating the culture they want rather than the one you want to achieve.
Ryan: What steps should a tree care company take to build a mentorship program?
Eric: I feel there are 4 simple steps that can be followed to develop a mentorship program.
- Talk to front line managers and crew leaders to see if they would be willing to serve as a mentor to your new employees.
- Ask a recent new hire how their training was and what could be improved upon to help them become proficient in their job faster. Also ask directly if an individual mentor would have been helpful for them.
- Start small. Pair the mentors up with the new employees and give them both flexibility in developing the program for your company. This means to allow for time, away from production or other tasks, to ask specific questions or get specific equipment training.
- Review with both parties every 30 days to ensure that the additional attention is having a positive impact on the employee’s development.