Teaching the Next Generation: Mentorship Programs & Workplace Training
By Heather Dolan
It is no secret that for many, this year has not gone as planned. We’ve all had to regroup, pivot, and persevere. One thing that seems to be a common thread in every industry though, is that people are spending more time learning and listening to others. Pandemic or not, entering the workforce as a new graduate or seasoned employee can be daunting. Focusing specifically on how young professionals start their careers at JE Dunn Construction and creating genuine, planned, and thoughtful experiences, is something the company has had in place for a number of years.
It takes just a few people getting together, having a focused discussion, developing a plan of action and a goal, to make things happen. This is how the mentor/intern development program at JE Dunn in Denver came to be.
There was a time when there was a higher than appreciated turnover rate in the more junior positions in the company. In an effort to remedy this, several people took the time and in 2015 developed and rolled out what is now the current mentorship program. The program came about because there seemed to be a need for increased engagement to foster the longevity of new hires.
Setting employees up for success from day one is very important. It is crucial to let employees know they are in the right place and feel they are treated well, not just given a desk, a phone, a computer and a high five. Employees do better and stay with a company longer when they are invested in early on. According to entrepreneur.com, it is far less expensive for companies to keep good employees than to continually train new ones.
As in anything, having someone to talk to about what is going on in your life, is a great way to compare, contrast and share experiences. JE Dunn’s program was developed with that in mind, while also providing educational activities to new as well as seasoned employees.
“We now have a pretty robust intern–to–employee program that really helps new hires come on board with a great experience. There are mentors from day one and programs in place to set new employees up for success. It is not just a welcome packet and good luck, it is an extensive program that takes people from their first day at the company, to success in their career,” Charlie Slattery, senior project manager and advocate for the program.
New employees on the Project Management, Superintendent, Estimating, and Integrated Project Services tracks start on day one with a mentor and are introduced to their peers. New professionals straight out of college, or others that are early in their career, are paired with a more senior staff member, providing them a ‘go to’ person that can help answer any questions and “how-to’s” regarding the company and their new job.
Jimmy Kaczmarek, senior project engineer and past mentee turned mentor states, “This helps new hires in many ways. First, they get to know their peers and spend some time with them, even though they may not be working on the same job site every day. They also get to have an advocate in the more senior staff
member that’s paired with them.”
The program is set up so that newer employees and fresh out of college employees, get together monthly with seasoned employees. During their time together, there is an educational piece opportunity as well as a social function. For example, past meetings, which are peer led, have included job sites in various stages of construction, trade partner facility tours, and presentations from the legal team, human resources and other departments. While some of this activity has slowed due to the pandemic, the communication has not stopped and the relationships continue to build.
Some of the purely social activities have included happy hours together as a group, trip to Top Golf, community service events and even the job site tours. As simple as it seems, monthly educational meetings and fun get togethers have been very effective. The communication among staff has improved and newer employees are getting a more well-rounded taste of working in the construction industry along with a more enjoyable experience. Newer staff members are also put on a rotation of the different ‘jobs’ in the industry so they get to learn as much as possible, and to make an informed decision as to what they want to do moving forward.
Some of the areas new employees/graduates spend rotations in are:
- Field Scheduling
- Building design and construction
- Inspection layout
It does take time to get immersed into all of these areas of the industry and this takes place through the employee development program over the course of three to four years. By having the opportunity to experience different parts of the trade and work with a variety of different teammates and supervisors, it allows for a complete experience and first-hand knowledge to afford our staff a clearer view of where he or she may want to take their career moving forward.
Heather Dolan is the marketing manager at JE Dunn Construction, a leader in the commercial construction industry since 1924. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, JE Dunn has 20 offices nationally and employs over 2,500 employees. Contact Heather Dolan at Heather.Dolan@jedunn.com