The Importance of Training and Mentorship in the New Normal
Do you remember your first day on the job? Not necessarily your first day at your current job, but the very first day you turned up, for your very first construction job.
Chances are you faced a lot of mixed emotion. Excitement, no doubt, but also apprehension and no small amount of fear. Fear, because you’re never quite sure—not on that first day—that you know what you’re doing.
Over time it all goes away, and that fear is replaced with confidence. Confidence that you know the job, that you are going to get it right and, eventually, that you’re damned good at it.
Confidence born from training, mentorship, and experience.
New workers incoming
When someone new joins your firm, you know just how important it is to be there for them, to reassure them that you understand their nervousness, and to be there to provide the training that they need to settle in comfortably to your company.
Training isn’t just about learning how to do their job, as described—it is also about fitting in, understanding the structure of the company and the people around them, and being familiar with the tools of the trade. We all know how new employees can walk in off the back of a well-respected and accredited course, but still know next to nothing about working in the real world. Everyone, no matter their credentials, needs to learn and adapt to the new working environment.
Are we going to be missing mentors?
Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, spoke about the need for young new workers to receive mentorship when they first join a company. He was discussing the idea of the ‘new normal’ where working from home is potentially more prevalent than traditional office-based work. In the conversation, he called remote working an ‘aberration’, and cited how it didn’t provide the same level of support for apprentice-based companies as a more social office environment.
Though his thoughts may not be shared by all, there’s little doubt that there’s something valid in them. Remember that first day again? How would you have coped without those around you being on hand to help? Chances are that it would have been many times more frightening that it was.
Having a senior colleague alongside allows the young apprentice worker to glean experience and information from someone who has ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ (as one of my own mentors used to say). It provides stability for the business and improves the ability of the company to transfer its ethos to new staff. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to form a unified company feel through Zoom calls and other remote working tools, but there’s definitely something missing when all you are is a face on a screen.
In the construction industry, having a mentor for fresh employees is essential. There are so many little nuances to the way we work that can never be put down in a handbook. Sometimes, you definitely need to be there to help show the way.
At Ensign, we are focussed on making the process of estimating simpler and less time-consuming. Our software has been developed for decades to take the laborious process of hand-building an accurate quote and automate and simplify it as much as possible.
Trainee quantity surveyors, and those fresh from university have little-to-no experience in using professional take-off software in any real world environment. In clean classroom conditions, there’re none of the pressures that can come when developing a real competitive tender, nor are there the huge raft of tiny adjustments and changes that will come with a real project. Even the best applicant would struggle to fit right in to your company structure and produce a top-class quote on the first try – and that’s as should be expected. Like anyone else, they need to spend time in a real environment honing their skills, and adapting to the culture and processes developed in your firm.
Having a mentor can make the difference between struggling to learn on the job for six months before finally collapsing under the pressure, and a smooth confidence-building process that helps them develop into a valuable team member.
It is important that training is not left to the wayside as we all adapt to new WFH practices and the ‘new normal’, otherwise we could be doing a lot more harm than good. Those days of ‘let’s just pop to the pub and discuss your problems over a pint’ mustn’t be allowed to simply fade away!
Becoming part of the family
Everyone wants to get along. It’s very rare to actually find an employee who revels in being disruptive and enjoys being rejected from social gatherings (despite what some might defensively say). In the construction industry, camaraderie is an important factor in being successful – after all, the team who works well together, is the team whose work together is done well.
As mentioned earlier, part of mentorship and training is in helping the new team member integrate into the company family – and it’s a lot harder to do when sat on your sofa at home.
David Solomon said how remote working didn’t fit the culture of Goldman Sachs – a bank. He wasn’t alone, with others in that sector (such as Barclays and JP Morgan) having similar viewpoints regarding the productivity of WFH vs. traditional office work. Other companies, such as tech giants Facebook and Microsoft, have happily embraced the working from home culture of 2020/21, and are looking to offer home-working as a permanent option for many of their employees.
How much does the nature of the industry affect the viability of remote working? What about the construction industry?
On-site construction obviously cannot be done from home (at least, not until we have remote construction drones to help us!) and contractors who are needed on-site will continue those traditions of group mentality and social interaction, but there’re a huge number of people in our industry who work in the background – office staff who deserve the same level of companionship as those out doing the heavy lifting. Those people using Ensign software, for example.
What does the new normal have to offer them in terms of mentorship, training and camaraderie? Are we going to see a society where training sessions are little more than one-on-one Zoom calls? What about when that dissolves a little bit more, and rather than providing live training, it becomes more efficient to simply say ‘we have a video that’ll explain everything for you, just watch this’.
Passive, non-interactive, and lonely. Hardly ‘welcome to the family’.
The answer to training and mentorship in 2021
One obvious answer is to hold regular in-person training sessions to run alongside any home-worker’s regular schedule. At the beginning of their employment, the new staff member would be brought into the office for some on-hand mentorship, and then regular training sessions could become part of the timetable – a one-day-a-month commute in to see how people are, and what’s changed in the meantime.
It’s not a perfect replication of the old days. You miss the opportunity to lean over and ask the person at the adjoining desk a quick question, you don’t overhear something that sparks an ‘aha’ moment in your own thinking, and you don’t get to close the distance between yourself and your boss just because you smile and say ‘hi’ as you pass each other on the way to the coffee machine.
But it’s better than nothing.
Software solutions, such as all the video conferencing apps, are doing what they can to mitigate this problem. More and more features will come out to diminish the gap, but there’s no question that the spontaneity of physical interaction can never be replicated. You may have a mentor, but they’ll just be there to answer work-related questions when they pop up, not to catch you making a mistake as they look over your shoulder, and stop it from happening.
This is what David Solomon has already understood. We may be able to do the work from home, but by doing so, we lose some of what makes a company.
Ensign’s training support
Whether it’s through video conferencing or in person, we at Ensign are always here to train you and your staff, and give you whatever we can to help you boost your productivity, making those quotes more accurate and less of a headache. Contact us if you would like to book a training session, and we’ll be there.
Maybe together, we can make sure that no one is ever left staring at their work with fear, thinking there’s no one about to help.
For more information on Ensign and how our software raises your professionalism, try out a free demo today!