Personnel e.bulletin – April 2016

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Coaching and Mentoring:  How to Build a Development System in Your Company

Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

Once you hire new employees, you start the onboarding process for them. Previous articles have established that effective onboarding involves introducing the new hires to your company’s culture, training them, setting & clarifying expectations, and evaluating the new employees’ progress & providing feedback.

If you have a good development system – including both onboarding and paths for advancement – employees will feel more satisfied, and you’ll more likely retain key talent. This article focuses on building a development system, with an emphasis on mentoring.

Since you start developing your new hires’ skills and knowledge from onboarding, mentoring should start there.

Mentoring From the Beginning
Mentoring is a good way to better ensure that your employees have the skills and training necessary to be successful. You can match new hires with a mentor right away.

The mentor:

  • Teaches the mentee about the company’s culture.
  • Imparts any necessary skills – depending on the new employee’s level of experience and position, this could involve answering questions or allowing the new employee to shadow the mentor.
  • Answers the new employee’s questions, both during onboarding and beyond.

Assigning the Right Mentor 
To create the most effective mentor-mentee relationship possible, try to assign a mentor who is the new employee’s peer rather than manager. A mentor who is not in charge of evaluating a mentee’s performance will be better able to build an open and honest relationship with the mentee.

The mentor should be someone who is doing or has done the job the new employee is entering so that the mentor has the proper skills and experience to impart.

Look for employees who display the following qualities to be mentors:

  1. Thoughtfulness. The mentor reflects on his or her own strategies and work experience and learns from them.
  2. Discretion. A discreet mentor will be better able to build trust with a mentee.
  3. Honesty. A mentor should be open and direct, while still respectful, in advice and in responding to an employee so that the employee is better able to improve.
  4. Curiosity. A good mentor is curious about the employee’s personality and needs, which will help the mentor provide the best avenues for the employee to learn and grow. It’s also helpful for the mentor to want to continue to learn and grow – by constantly developing skills and knowledge in the job and industry – so that he or she can impart that new knowledge to the mentee.
  5. Generosity and compassion. An effective mentor won’t feel threatened by a mentee’s success, but will continue to share knowledge and celebrate progress.
  6. Openness. A mentor should have the appropriate availability in his or her schedule to accommodate the new hire and be ready to listen.
  7. Ethicalness. The mentor should model the behavior you want to see out of future employees as well.

Building a Mentorship Program
You should clearly define the goals for any mentor-mentee relationship you set up. For example, a mentor-mentee relationship might focus on onboarding, and another might focus on developing leadership skills in an employee with a lot of potential. With the specific goals in mind, the mentor will know his or her role and better be able to help the mentee succeed.

Also, emphasize the following tasks for the mentor:

  • Communication. Openly communicate to build trust, set expectations, and check in to keep the mentee on track.
  • Create opportunities. Look for new opportunities for the mentee to learn.
  • Counsel. Help the mentee deal with problems, and inform the mentee when choices or behavior might go against the company’s procedures.
  • Teach. Impart knowledge and share insight from the mentor’s experiences.
  • Model. Model both procedural aspects of the job and ethical values that reflect the company’s culture.
  • Encourage. Link the mentee’s goals to the company’s agenda, and recognize and celebrate successes.

These tasks are important both to the mentor who is helping in onboarding and the mentor who is helping employees advance.

A quick aside: Not every position includes a path for advancement, and not every employee wants to become a leader. Employees who are happy with their position form an important backbone for small businesses. You can still make sure those employees are satisfied with their jobs through ongoing training, professional development, opportunities to work with different customers, educational support, and perks and bonuses for a job well done.

When you identify employees with strong leadership skills who are looking for new opportunities, you can set them up with an appropriate mentor to help them work up to a management position in your company, for example, and establish management training through that relationship.

Employees with strong leadership skills and a desire for a new role can be mentors themselves.

Mentoring as Advancement
By sharing knowledge and experiences, a mentor can improve his or her own leadership skills. In helping a mentee, a mentor can reflect on his or her experiences and might see new patterns and strategies.

Also, the mentor will have the opportunity to see the company from a fresh perspective and gain insights on its culture and goals. Working with a new employee will give the mentor new interpersonal skills.  And finally, this role can bring the mentor new satisfaction in his or her job.  The learning that comes along with mentorship can therefore provide fresh experience for an employee seeking a new opportunity.

A development system emphasizing mentorship that starts from an employee’s hiring can strengthen your company. New hires will gain crucial knowledge about the company from the beginning and have clarity in their roles; employees looking for advancement can build their knowledge base; and mentors can take on a new leadership role themselves. That system can create a cycle of continuity and teamwork that will help your business run more smoothly and help you retain key talent.

This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of March 2016. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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