Mentoring in construction used to be pretty limited—maybe a bit of onboarding about standard policies and procedures, and a manager to chat with over coffee every now and then. At some firms, even those chats were for the lucky few. I think it’s fair to say that many employees often felt under-supported, under-prepared, and unheard.
Well, things certainly have changed! Over the last 5-10 years, mentoring at top firms has evolved into a long-term, holistic process that consistently helps people grow into the professionals and leaders they truly want to be.
“The construction industry has become much more intentional about mentoring," notes Tyler Tonkin, Executive VP of Operations at GLY. "It's about being great leaders, not just having people be proficient at their jobs. It's vitally important to the health and success of a company, and to the high performing teams working in stressful environments every day.”
It's about being great leaders, not just having people be proficient at their jobs.
Senior Project Engineer Scott Tallquist is a mentor to many GLY Project Engineers, including Hanna Gibson.
And the evolution will certainly continue. We're learning how to better support employees from a variety of backgrounds, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion. Many successes have already become widespread.
GLY embraces this transition. Today, our mentoring objectives and outcomes better serve our employees, and therefore our company and industry partners.
In earlier years, mentoring was about introducing new hires to the ins and outs of GLY’s operations. Today, this is just one aspect of the process for salaried employees; some mentoring programs are specific to a specific work group, project engineers [PEs] for example. We're also more intentional in mentoring tradespeople who want to pursue supervisory positions.
PE mentoring focuses on helping people serve as effective team members with the skillsets—technical and human—needed to execute at a high level.
Every new GLY PE has four mentors:
A senior PE on the same project for day-to-day support
A senior PE from a different team for perspective
A project manager for career conversations
A member of our Virtual Design + Construction Committee for all things VDC
Meanwhile, every PE learns technical processes and business skills though our PE Playbook, a series of learning modules that takes years to complete. Guidance from the mentors along the way is essential.
Lauren Gallagher, who joined GLY after interning here two years ago, appreciates this layered approach. “Each of my mentors gives me their unique perspective, which accelerates my ability to communicate effectively. I enjoy taking their ideas and guidance and adapting them to my own style.”
Each of my mentors gives me their unique perspective.
Lauren Gallagher at West Main with one of her project mentors Jake Reinhard.
Experienced PEs joining GLY might find the technical aspects easier, but they're still in a new place and culture.
Chris Kelley, who joined us after several years with another firm, adds that having several mentors helps him feel more connected to the GLY team. Formal and informal go-to folks help him day-to-day. “This means, among other things, that I can provide better solutions more quickly than if I were on my own,” he says.
The mentor tends to benefit as well. Our PE Operations Manager, Greg Burke, sees this constantly. “Being mentored and serving as a mentor means growth and opportunity for both people," he says. "Our mentoring program nurtures our culture of sharing knowledge.” CEO Ted Herb agrees. "As a teacher, you can develop lifelong relationships and gain satisfaction from helping others.”
Mentoring has evolved in the field as well, both at GLY and throughout the industry. Now we support tradespeople better at every level from apprentice to journeyman, foreman, and superintendent.
Developing field supervisors is a focus. Existing supervisors are tasked with identifying journey and foreman level tradespeople who have the interest, talent, and drive to run projects, and mentoring them along the way. This is a work in progress. Next is creating a Field Superintendent Playbook much like the PE version.
When Jon Eaton joined GLY as a carpenter in 1999, there was no formal mentoring or training. “Passing on knowledge was over coffee with my superintendent. That and plenty of on-the-job training!” As for developing technical skills to move to the foreman level, like scheduling and coordinating requests for information, there wasn't much, Jon adds. “We had to go outside on our own for formal training and what we now consider true mentoring.” Jon rose to Superintendent and committed to doing better for the next generation.
Jon motivated me to be a better listener, to think outside of the box, and to be a collaborator.
[Left to right] Walter Gerecke, Shane Funston, Joe Sahlin, and Jon Eaton at SCTP graduation.
We leverage third-party programs such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Superintendent Career Training Program [SCTP]. This provides broad training on subjects from preparing for interviews to scheduling and conflict resolution, as well as one-on-ones with an official mentor and on-the-job training.
Joe Sahlin graduated the SCTP in October with Jon as his mentor and is now a Superintendent. Mentorship was essential during the program. “Jon motivated me to be a better listener, to think outside of the box, and to be a collaborator. Now I strive to be a mentor myself,” Joe says.
Dan Manger is another successful mentee. Superintendent Rob Cochrun noticed Dan, an outstanding framer, looking at drawings on his phone—in 2013, when that was unusual! Soon Dan was running work. "He was always hungry to learn more," Rob says, "whether it was working on schedules, talking through owner meetings, or motivating his crews." Mentorship and the SCTP provided the knowledge to match the drive. Dan is now an Assistant Superintendent.
As Ted says, everyone benefits from gaining wisdom, including the structured and intentional kind that supports your company culture.
We will continue to improve our mentoring, as an industry and as a company. And our workforce—supported, well-prepared, from a wide range of backgrounds—will be the better for it!