5 Pillars of Mentoring in Concrete Construction

By: Ray Dickinson


I think Ben Franklin said it best:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Achieving and maintaining one of the best safety records in the construction industry does not happen by accident. It requires the development of highly-competent, safety-focused team members.

By no means is this an overnight process, but progress is much more secure and streamlined when there’s an effective mentor program in place. The following five pillars help support a mentor program that sufficiently prepares employees to be safe, efficient, high-quality service providers:

  1. Dedicated Mentors: When looking for individuals to serve as mentors, it’s important that they be evaluated on factors, such as:
    • Work experience
    • Safety training
    • Industry knowledge
    • Professionalism (with customers and crew members)
    • Equipment care
    • Job preparation
    • Competency as a worker/supervisor
    • Adaptability

What’s more is that, since mentors are volunteering their time and job-related wisdom, mentors should also demonstrate that they care about helping others succeed and are invested in making the company the best it can be.

  1. Deliberate Employee Screening: As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Construction jobs are not easy. There’s a lot to know and do – especially when it comes to ensuring everyone’s safety. So in addition to having a clean driving record, mechanical abilities, good social and communication skills, being drug-free, and presenting themselves well, employees need to demonstrate that they are teachable and coachable.Therefore, it’s important to evaluate new potential employees prior to matching them with a mentor. Two effective ways to do this are through new employee orientation and initial introduction to field work.
    • New employee orientation is the foundation for teaching trainees a set of standards for working safely and proficiently. Ideally, new employee orientation should address your company’s commitment to safety, established guidelines for communication, expectations for professional conduct, and safety training, among other things.
    • During the first two to three weeks of employment, it’s valuable to introduce new hires to different types of field work and allow them to serve in various capacities as both “helper” and “laborer.” Getting them involved in work allows management and co-workers to see what their work ethic is like, if they are punctual, dependable, their overall attitude, and how well they get along with others.
  1. Mentoring Principles: Rather than simply giving answers to the trainee, mentors are most effective when they help the trainee find answers for themselves and facilitate their experience of discovery and learning. By providing a safe, supportive space that allows the trainee to experience their own attempts, failures, and successes, the trainee is able to develop their own natural strengths and potential.This is also why the employee screening is so important. While the mentor needs to be a facilitator and coach, the trainee needs to be open-minded to the guidance and facilitative methods of the mentor. If the trainee is always looking to their mentor for answers, then they’ll become too reliant on their mentor instead of their own skills and abilities.
  2. Established Competency Levels:  In order to effectively document the trainees’ process and ensure that they have the confidence, know-how, and ability to perform the work on their own, it’s important to establish competency levels.For example, at Penhall, Level 1 competency for core drilling includes things, such as:
    • Demonstrate the ability to safely secure the drill to the work area, adjust the drill rig to the hole, and successfully drill hole(s) through all materials using 110v, 220v drills with vacuum bases or mechanical anchors.
    • Drill holes up to 12” diameter and 12” thick.
    • Drill holes through floors, walls, corner and lifting holes for larger openings.
    • Understand and be knowledgeable in proper core catching techniques and know the OSHA regulations regarding covering openings in floors and walls.

Mentored trainees should also be required to complete checklists for the level in which they are enrolled and pass a written test for each level with a passing score of 90%.

  1. Mentor Input: To ensure that the mentor program is accurately defined, reflects the goals of the company, and continuously improves, it’s vital to solicit feedback and input from mentors on things, such as the technical reviews of the competency levels, definitions, check-lists, evaluations sheets, etc.

When developed and implemented correctly, a mentor program can be the linchpin that secures a company’s ability to cultivate a safety-focused work force and consistently provide top-notch service quality.

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