The Seven Deadly Sins of Mentorship Programs
A skilled craftsman. One with an impeccable skillset that doesn’t just include body work, but also organization, information retrieval and continued education. Someone who teaches the entirety of the job, not just bits and pieces of information.
That’s what a mentor is, according to Mike Mavec, owner of Mike’s Collision Center in Bloomington, Ill. Mavec currently has four A-techs that work in his shop, and he’s known them since they were juniors and seniors in high school. They were former mentees and now, three of them mentor apprentices.
And while mentoring is not necessarily a new concept, Dave Tritz, owner of Don’s Auto Body in St. Charles, Mo., says, “mentorship is not the same as it used to be.”
In the past, mentorship involved working your way up in a shop as a technician. And as you became more skilled and knowledgeable, you moved into management positions, he says. But today, that is not the case.
Not everyone can be a mentor, but Mavec and Tritz identify the mistakes to avoid when it comes to having an effective mentorship program in your shop.
Deadly Sin #1: Poor Culture Fit
Finding the right mentor for your employees starts with the ability to not only fit in, but also translate your shop’s culture to other employees. In order to be an effective mentor, they have to posses a skillset that’s well rounded and well received by other employees.
“We’ve created a culture and what I look for in a mentor is for them to be able to cultivate that culture to another generation coming up,” Mavec says.
Mavec has done just that, with the majority of his mentors being former mentees. It’s one way he’s both fostered and maintained talent; he knows that he’s growing current mentees into future mentors.
Deadly Sin #2: Lack of Communication
For Mavec, his mentors can’t just show and not tell. They have to show their mentees, explain what is being done and all the different reasons for doing so. That means explaining not just the correct way to complete the repair, but also the whole flow of timing and execution.
Communication also all goes back the shop culture; the mentors need to be able to explain what the culture is about.
Deadly Sin #3: Losing Patience with Mentees
According to Mavec, to teach anyone anything, one needs to be patient. Newer techs might not know everything in the book, so someone needs to walk them through it step by step.
Mavec does appreciate knowledge of the industry for a mentor technician, but he also recognizes that doesn’t mean that every A-tech would make a great mentor because he or she may not posses certain communication or patience skills; he or she may not understand the bigger picture of the culture, or may just be in it for themselves.
“If the whole team wins, it’s better for everybody than having just one winner,” he says.
Overall, the mentor has to be a people person, understand the shop culture, understand the company goals and be a good communicator.
Deadly Sin #4: Selecting an Uneducated Mentor
Tritz puts it this way: Experienced techs that have been in the industry for decades are wonderful people, but if they haven’t continued their education with model changes or new technology, their knowledge now has a shorter shelf life.
“Continuing education, I cannot stress that enough,” Tritz says.
The industry is no longer standardized, he says, so your mentor needs to have continuing knowledge so he or she can adapt to the rapid changes of repair methods. A technician may produce great work, but if he or she is not trained on new repair processes, that knowledge could quickly become outdated.
On the flip side of that, if you take a young tech who has gone through training and has the technical knowledge but not the field experience, he or she may not know why they’re doing something or know where to find the information.
If you have someone who has all the experience and shop knowledge, and you have a younger technician who doesn’t have that and can bring the technical information, it just makes the whole process more efficient when they team up and mentor one another.
“We’re a knowledge-based company,” Mavec says.
He says that with every repair, research is performed and “that’s a trait that they pass down to their trainees.”
Technology changes, Mavec says, but if you’re teaching someone to do it wrong, are you a good mentor? It’s very important that the mentor understands that they have to keep that knowledge open on their end and be able to communicate it.
Deadly Sin #5: Poorly Pairing Mentors and Mentees
In an ideal world, both your mentor and mentee would have identical personality traits, but Mavec says that isn’t always the case. However, it’s important to pair people up who have some similarities.
Overall, “a mentor actually should match the position you are trying to fill,” Tritz says.
For instance, a 30-year employee that has been out on the production floor would not be a good mentor for someone working in the office or the administrative side, Tritz says. They may be a good mentor for a skilled person in the shop that you’d want to teach additional processes to and technical information.
Also, consider what your ratio of mentors to mentees are, Mavec says. For example, if you have a mentor/mentee pair already established and another mentee comes along that you think you would be a good fit for a mentor that already has a mentee, consider if it’s fair for the original mentee and whether or not that will hinder their experience.
Sometimes having two mentees for a mentor is not a good idea, so you have to evaluate both parties.
Deadly Sin #6: Setting Insufficient Expectations
Once you’ve paired up your mentors and mentees, set your expectations. Mavec says that in his shop, benchmarks are catered to each pair. He says that the mentorship can take anywhere from three months to two years, all dependent on the pair and the skillset the mentee is learning.
Mavec says that progressing quickly is less important than doing so in a correct manner. Speed garners mistakes, he says. Doing the job correctly is far more important than completing the program super fast. Your benchmarks should be catered around the team and your production schedule.
Deadly Sin #7: Not Rewarding Your Mentors
Compensation is always the first and biggest thing, according to Mavec, when it comes to mentor motivation. Poor compensation can slow a mentor down in productivity.
Mavec suggests that creating a compensation basis that also works best for the company and is a good way to keep the mentors motivated.
And Tritz says that if you have younger employees, try to understand what motivates them to do their job. The younger generation may look at things beyond the compensation aspect, like the types of cars you shop specializes in, or the time-off benefits you give. Understanding that can help you better relate.