A one-on-one mentoring program just may be what your company needs to bridge the generational gap and push your business to the next level, according to one expert in the construction industry.

Nancy Libardoni, vice president and director of enterprise learning and development at Gilbane Building Co., recently participated in a webinar hosted by BlueBeam Inc. on this topic. She discussed a mentoring program she’s been involved in with her company over the last few years and offered advice on how one can be implemented in businesses across the industry.

“Training doesn’t really happen in the classroom,” she said. “What we’ve found is a one-to-one approach to building skills, building confidence and inspiring curiosity from mentor to mentee—and in any reverse format you can think of—has really proved more valuable than learning from anything else.”

In recent years, Gilbane has operated a program matching senior leaders with “emerging leaders” to form one-on-one mentor relationships, and it found that both sides had a lot to offer to one another. “The key to a successful mentor relationship is to build trust,” said Libardoni.

Mentees, she said, can contribute insights, new ideas and a fresh perspective, while the mentors offer coaching, strategic guidance and opportunities for growth.

Mentors and mentees were matched up based on mutual expectations and agreements on meeting frequency. “This could’ve been weekly, daily… it’s up to them,” she said. The minimum meeting requirement is one hour, once a month for six months. Other guidelines were to “be open-minded, provide encouragement … share successes and lessons learned, and provide constructive feedback.”

The latter guideline has proven to be a key component to the relationship, Libardoni found—particularly in employees identifying areas where they were stuck on a particular challenge.

“In reverse mentoring, what we found is a lot of our senior leaders were not able to admit [their struggles] in a group setting or in a large forum,” she said. “But in that trust relationship, one-on-one … we found there was more confiding, and they were getting more out of it in their own way.”

Libardoni discussed some traits that were evident among the different generations. “There are specific needs for each [generation]—not stereotypes, but specific needs,” she said.

She said millennials are looking for “on-demand, just-in-time support,” and that they need help with foundational skills and cultural awareness.

As for Gen-Xers, she said, “Although skeptical of authority, they’re looking for collaboration and a balanced relationship.” She noted that they “need help identifying a career path that produces a win-win for them and the organization.”

Baby Boomers, meanwhile, are “looking for participation and support from their management.” She added that they need help developing “more innovative technology applications skills.”

Libardoni said Gilbane has now established 105 parings to date. Eighty percent of those, she said, continued their relationship beyond the initial six-month period, and 73 percent said they would participate in another mentoring program. Additionally, 46 percent reported the mentoring program influenced their development.

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