EP 54: Building A Successful Mentorship Program with Heather Dobson

Building A Successful Mentorship Program

Have you ever started a job and thought to yourself how much easier it would have been if you had someone there showing you the ropes? Mentoring is an essential part of any successful business and is an exceptional way to retain quality staff. As the Director of Business & Workforce Development at CCI, Heather Dobson works with the leadership team on project tracking, building client relationships, and ensuring the team has the right mentors in place. In this episode, she will be joining the show to share how to start a mentorship program within your organization, as well as how to support those mentors.

What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode

  • The value of creating a mentorship program for your organization. (3:10)
  • The importance of asking for feedback within your program. (7:00)
  • How to effectively communicate expectations. (12:20)

Actionable Takeaway for HR Professionals:

  • Be clear in your expectations for your mentors and build the program with feedback. (16:15)

Actionable Takeaway for Executives:

  • Be clear with your mentors on what you want the program to achieve. (15:30)

Ideas Worth Sharing

“Mentoring is naturally going to happen whether you are paying attention to it or not.” - Heather Dobson Click To Tweet

Resources In Today’s Episode

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Click Here for Audio Transcript

Traci Scherck: Welcome to the talent optimization podcast my name is Tracy Scherck and i’m the chief talent officer here at elevated spelling consulting and we are talking about mentoring today and i’m curious.

Traci Scherck: Have you ever started a job and thought wow it would be super helpful if I had someone show me the ropes in this position.

Traci Scherck: Or, as you grow in your career really having that person that can be that mentor to you so that you know what those next steps are and really bounce ideas off of.

Traci Scherck: With me on the show today I have heather dobson and heather is the director of business and workforce development at corporate contractors incorporated, which is a commercial construction company so heather welcome to the show.

Heather Dobson: thanks for having me.

Traci Scherck: yeah so i’m curious what for you, has been important about starving and having a mentoring program within the CCI.

Heather Dobson: yeah well there’s a number of reasons right mentoring is naturally going to happen, whether you are paying attention to it or not, and so having a program already set in your company just helps you to be aware of what is being communicated and helps prepare the mentors.

Heather Dobson: so that they feel ready for those conversations in those interactions that they might not think twice about.

Traci Scherck: yeah, and that makes a lot of sense right it’s what’s important to them and so much of this maybe controlling the message right what is that message What are those things that we want new individuals to hear that we.

Traci Scherck: have a hard time as management and leadership sometimes sharing that right, sometimes it’s as simple as.

Traci Scherck: where’s the bathroom or where to go to lunch or who do I call for this right.

Heather Dobson: Right oh absolutely it’s oftentimes those small things that people will lean on someone that they look to as a mentor to help them with those.

Heather Dobson: Literally small things like when’s lunch or where can I find this and so it’s really to be that bridge between them and leadership, but also to help them grow.

Heather Dobson: intentionally on their level two, and you know, and I say knowingly or unknowingly somebody a mentor, because how many times is people then like oh this person keeps asking me all these questions and I don’t know what to say to them, and you know I don’t know where to take this.

Heather Dobson: It recognizing that they’re leaning on you and what platform, you have as their mentor whether she meant to be or not is important and taking some time to really be aware of.

Heather Dobson: What are the best ways to connect and communicate what are the best ways to help give feedback are really important so that they’re not taking this opportunity and not taking advantage of it in a positive way.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely and it’s funny I had a.

Traci Scherck: I had a mentor group that I was working with a couple weeks ago, and one of the comments was.

Traci Scherck: yeah we had a new guys started and everyone else was in the shop, but the new guys standing out in the pouring rain in the middle of the work site.

Traci Scherck: Like well did anyone go get them, while we laughed at him for a while i’m like well how do you think he felt about that it’s like probably not good.

Traci Scherck: i’m sitting here like okay so as we build out our mentor handbook and those things that we’re going to go through with mentee is you know in those first couple weeks on the job, do you think this may be needs to be a part of that they’re like yeah yes, it does.

Heather Dobson: Right, because that will stick with him for the whole time that he is at that company like right remember that day.

Traci Scherck: He left me out in the pouring rain.


Traci Scherck: don’t do that because you don’t want to be that person right.

Heather Dobson: Right you don’t want to be that story for him later.

Traci Scherck: Right now, we all have ways of spending this story right but we don’t want that to start that way because that’s just that negative taste in your mouth and.

Traci Scherck: As mentors right sometimes it’s that Okay, I never thought about that, until after it happened, and so i’m curious, how are you i’m at CC i’ve been running an official mentor Program.

Heather Dobson: We started this program was five years ago.

Heather Dobson: So we really looked at.

Heather Dobson: What tools and opportunities do we have to help people grow, because not everyone’s going to be ready to jump into a leader leadership position.

Heather Dobson: Either right away or wherever it might not be where their goals are, but whether or not you’re a leader doesn’t mean that you can’t be a great mentor.

Heather Dobson: And so, really, you know we took some time and thought about what does the onboarding process look like for somebody.

Heather Dobson: Do they feel like they’re part of the team from day one, they feel like they can jump right in and you know catch up to everybody and kind of build that rapport that helps people just show up for work every day right and in our first mentor training.

Heather Dobson: Never had to sell anybody on participating in this, let me start out with that everyone has always been like okay cool So what does this mean.

Heather Dobson: And that’s really where it’s a much bigger conversation right like what are the expectations, because some people take that responsibility very seriously, and they want to understand where does my line go and where does their supervisor take over and.

Heather Dobson: Does my feedback matter and, and you know just us reassuring them that their feedback is invaluable when you’re talking about somebody first 90 days, and how are they doing, where do you see gaps, where do you see opportunities and potential that you know their leader might not see yet.

Heather Dobson: One of our.

Heather Dobson: mentors here at CCI we were talking in a training one time and and he said he was super excited that there was this training and he and the rest of.

Heather Dobson: My co workers asked really good questions and had really good comments, because they just wanted to make sure that when somebody else came on they felt instantly welcomed they said, you know construction is one of those industries where people are like yeah.

Heather Dobson: You gotta got to be rough and tumble and that’s certainly not the case, and so there’s nothing wrong with welcoming somebody to a company and and maybe you’re comfortable.

Heather Dobson: With where they’re at, and especially if you’re talking about a recent graduate from high school and you know they’re just trying to figure out where they belong in general, whether or not this is the right career for them, let alone the company so.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely and when we specifically look at those things, especially when we’re you know talking in that learning curve, I was doing a presentation.

Traci Scherck: Last week, and we were specifically talking about what does that first 90 days look like and that’s your time to learn.

Traci Scherck: And when you have that buddy you’re paired up with to learn it, it allows that trust to build and say hey i’m going to ask these questions which might be really stupid questions.

Traci Scherck: But they’re not because you’re learning right and that goes back to the culture, what is the culture that you’re building, because there are the rough and tumble.

Traci Scherck: Construction organizations, you know we’ve worked in i’m in with them right and then there’s the construction organizations.

Traci Scherck: That really pay attention to how we treat our employees has a direct impact on the quality of work and on how we specifically retain staff.

Traci Scherck: And that’s really what we see with the mentorship program that you’ve talked about.

Traci Scherck: And i’m curious so as those mentors that have gone through your mentorship program and I wanted to find what this is for for our listeners, because there are some mentorship programs that are really meant, for you know high potentials that are mid career.

Traci Scherck: This mentorship program that we’re talking about today is really meant for brand new employees coming into an organization that is paired with.

Traci Scherck: A mentor that’s gone through a very specific leadership development, training on how do we support them through out their onboarding process, specifically the first 12 weeks of their higher.

Heather Dobson: Right yeah so we really use this program to focus on the new hires and apprentice for somebody that’s gone back to school to.

Heather Dobson: become a journeyman they need to have a mentor and then also anybody that’s moving around at the company so, whether they are switching departments divisions or moving into a little bit different position.

Heather Dobson: that’s really who we gear this towards we definitely do different things for somebody to your point that is moving up in a in a to a leadership right like that’s got a different pathway, for us, as far as what our development looks like for them, but.

Heather Dobson: The program itself is really just to help somebody understand what their expectations are as a new hires an apprentice as a.

Heather Dobson: New person in a division or role, and also for the mentor to understand how to how to be that.

Heather Dobson: connection for them to the company into the culture and set that example, so that the leaning on them for some of those informal things and.

Heather Dobson: Really, we look at it as an opportunity for them to because the more successful you are as a mentor the more confident you’re going to feel moving into being a leader right.


Heather Dobson: reaffirms what you already know day to day, but when you have to explain it to somebody else, all of a sudden, you know what a little bit better.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely and it’s like one of the best ways to learn something is to train someone else on.

Traci Scherck: One of the mentor groups that I had recently worked with um you know they’re saying part of the reason why i’m here is, I had somebody come in, they didn’t know anything.

Traci Scherck: Right like they came in and they didn’t know how to swing a hammer, so my job was to teach them how to swing a hammer, and I didn’t know how to do that without making them feel stupid.

Traci Scherck: i’m like that is the perfect thing to come forward and say how do we do this because this stuff isn’t taught right.

Traci Scherck: And so you know we walk through a couple different tools on, you know how do you use tools like understanding that first times are difficult right and how do we normalize those got a plug my neighbor I love her stuff.

Traci Scherck: You know it’s one of those ways, how do you normalize it, how do we set our expectations and then continue to grow those expectations, but also with our communication.

Traci Scherck: Having that communication in a way that asked questions so that they’re answering their own questions and throwing in that.

Traci Scherck: And you know what I love is when I can look around a room and see every face light up especially construction workers right and see every face light up and go oh yeah that makes perfect sense there are so powerful.

Heather Dobson: yeah willing and even understanding like oh that’s not what I should do, or that’s not.

Heather Dobson: You know, part of the expectation for me that’s super valuable to so that they don’t feel like they’re jumping into the deep end of a pool without understanding.

Heather Dobson: You know what what even do with a mentee right, so he just helping them to understand why what the process behind.

Heather Dobson: Why they’re telling somebody how to use a hammer properly right so outside of the fact that you just need them to use it right, why is it important for them to use it right like.

Heather Dobson: let’s talk saftey let’s talk about.

Heather Dobson: You know how what you do impact somebody else, and you know, especially in construction, you know it becomes a trickle down effect if you will.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely absolutely so when we talk about supporting your mentors so you’ve had five years of this program with some pretty significant success i’m curious, how do you support your mentors.

Heather Dobson: And so we give them recognition, the year that they graduate the program We certainly want to celebrate their hard work and our commitment and then on going, and I should say they get a hard head stickers so.

Heather Dobson: it’s funny as as they each graduate they’re like where’s my hard hat sticker like i’m tired of looking at so and so is from two years ago where’s my heart has thicker and so.

Heather Dobson: that’s just a fun piece of it, for me, I guess, and for the associates they go through it for them to kind of.

Heather Dobson: Be proud of what they accomplished and then i’m going we offer, we asked for them to give us feedback right, so we want to know what’s working what’s not working, a lot of the people that went to the mentor training.

Heather Dobson: or five years ago are now in leadership positions at the company, because of the natural growth that came with that, and so you know now it’s let’s talk about leadership trainings and let’s talk about.

Heather Dobson: How you grow your team and it’s not necessarily just you know the new person as a mentee but.

Heather Dobson: you’ve got a whole team here that you are responsible for, and how are you coaching your subcontractors on the job site and because you know everything that happens on a job site.

Heather Dobson: Is our responsibility, and so you know it’s always a reflection of of whoever’s there so remembering that they can impact more than just a couple of people that they’re mentoring and think bigger.

Traci Scherck: Awesome so as we start to close out our conversation today i’m curious what is one key takeaway that you have for CEOs and our executives listening.

Heather Dobson: And my biggest takeaway would be intentional and what the mentor program looks like because not everyone wants to be a mentor now that everyone understands what.

Heather Dobson: It means to be a manager and then just knowing what you want to get that out of that program and making sure that you’re setting clear expectations, so that.

Heather Dobson: People you’re asking to become mentors really understand um you know that that they’re not being asked to tattle on their co workers.

Traci Scherck: Right, we want you to be a buddy not a tattle tale right.

Traci Scherck: And what is a takeaway that you have for our HR professionals listening in to our conversation today.

Heather Dobson: and build the program with feedback, so you know set your general framework done and what you’re trying to accomplish but then start asking questions of people that you know, are already mentors of the company or that you know.

Heather Dobson: I understand enough about mentoring, to offer feedback on what they have seen and what they know will work versus what they know will fail because you don’t want to set the program up so that people feel like it’s an uphill battle.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely awesome well Thank you so much for joining us as we talk about mentoring today, and if you’re interested in learning more about the the HR structures.

Traci Scherck: That really ensure organizations have strong cultures, including mentoring, we are launching launching our hire Program.

Traci Scherck: And this is a six month guided kind of tours, so to say, of how to build that HR department from the ground up so from your org charts to your job descriptions to your your onboarding program to your mentoring Program.

Traci Scherck: So we will have that information in the show notes and again that’ll open up at the end of January, and we thank you so much for listening in every week and we hope that you have a great day thanks so much for joining us.