Mentoring New Employees
CHALLENGE; I own a large interior
design firm in New York City and have recently increased my business
by accepting new clients thanks to the high demand for complete
interior design services in my area. I have recently hired six new
entry-level interior designers and salespersons!
I keep a close watch on every part of my business and would like
to devote my utmost time to each new employee. Meanwhile, I continue
servicing past and present clients, and now I am worried I will
spread myself too thin. Could you please offer some suggestions
for how I can provide the attention needed to train my new employees
and still run my design business? I would like each one of my new
designers and salespeople to be able to assist me in all aspects
of the client design services I provide, but it seems almost impossible!
SOLUTION: I recently presented
an educational series of workshops that expressed the importance
of mentoring. It was a wonderful experience.
Mentoring involves one or more employees who stand out in your company
and would be willing to offer their expertise in the design field
to serve as excellent examples or role models to new employees.
This is a process that evolves throughout an extended time frame.
The experienced employee will serve as the mentor and the new employee
serves as the student.
A mentoring program offers the opportunity for the company owner,
or in your case the lead designer, to identify the knowledge, skills
and various abilities of each individual in the firm and then use
the talents and abilities of the mentor to guide, lead and inspire
the students. The results of the process will be seen in the development
of problem-solving skills each student will gain as he or she begins
to understand the problems and challenges particular to your design
firm, the process of developing designer/client relationships, the
selling skills required for your market, the design challenges unique
to your particular target client, the implementation of good design
sense and any additional skills that the student may be lacking.
As you have mentioned, you are very busy due to the high volume
of business you currently enjoy—too busy to devote your time
to each new employee. By identifying particular individuals in your
company who are experienced in the specific areas you want to stress,
you can begin to match each new employee with the employees you
have chosen to become mentors for those areas. This way your time
will not be taken up with the time-consuming, hands-on individual
training of each new employee.
To guarantee a successful match of mentor to student, you would
need to identify the skills, talents and leadership ability of each
potential mentor and assess the skills and talents of each new employee.
You might want to consider a formal questionnaire for your current
employees that they would complete at home or on their own time.
Their answers to the questions might uncover hidden talents or areas
of interest unknown to you! For new employees, you can base your
evaluation on their employment application, paying particular attention
to the skills and experience section and noting what areas they
might be lacking in. This should be kept confidential for each employee.
You will, of course, be observing each new employee for special
talents or interests he or she shows. Then you can match each mentor
to each student.
A mentor program is a great way to energize new and current employees’
enthusiasm in design. This type of program has proved successful
in many different subject areas, and I know you will be impressed
with the results.
Editor’s note: This is a continuing series of articles
written by Sharon L. Anderson that will answer some of the many
questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings
as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business.
If you have a question you would like Anderson to address, please
send it to:
c/o Draperies & Window Coverings
1724 E. Grand Ave.
Lindenhurst, IL 60046
Fax: (847) 356-9013
(subject line “Design Solutions Article”)