Recently I had a candidate interview with a mid-sized consulting civil engineering firm. The company was very well established with strong leadership and a great reputation within their community. The interview went well and both parties enjoyed spending the day together getting to know one another, both on a personal and professional level. Following the interview, in debriefing the candidate, she had one major area of concern about the company. You see, my candidate is an ambitious young professional with about 10 years of experience. She is confident in her abilities and has had some really good experience thus far in her career. One of the reasons she was considering a new opportunity was because her existing employer did not have a mentorship program where she could further refine her career as a professional civil engineer. She was looking for a firm where she could not only be challenged and where a visible path for upward career mobility was available, but where she could be provided a mentor to guide her in areas of technical and managerial leadership in order to develop a well rounded and productive career, one day leading to a principal or executive level role. This conversation led to a couple of interesting discussions not only with my candidate, but with my client as well. Initially I thought to myself, “why wouldn’t a company have a formal mentorship program in place?” It seems like a no brainer, right? But in the words of Lee Corso:
Though my client does not have a formal program, they do have a number of mentor-protege situations within the organization that occurred naturally, and they feel that is the best approach for their culture.
There are a number of advantages to formal mentoring programs if they are carried out properly:
- Established goals with measurable outcomes
- Authored plans / curriculums
- Sense of accomplishment for both mentor and mentee
- Value added benefit to employees
- Building of strong relationships between employees and company principals which may lead to a stronger sense of loyalty
- Direct organizational benefits in the areas of company growth, client satisfaction, employee engagement and pride
Without a doubt, those are some major advantages that can separate your civil engineering firm from the pack and help distinguish itself from the competition. There are however some potential downsides to a formal mentoring program worth considering:
- You MUST have a dedicated Principal who is willing to develop or research, administer, and monitor the program on a consistent basis
- Forcing a mentor / metee relationship between two people can be troublesome, as opposed to letting a natural relationship flourish over time
- A forced mentor / mentee relationship that goes awry leads to fences that need mending, which takes time and effort in-and-of-itself
At the end of the day, each organization has to look itself in the mirror and determine whether or not a formal mentoring program fits their culture, and if so, do they have the resources of time, effort, and money to deliver an effective program where all parties can reap the benefits?