Mentoring payback




When thinking about how to improve your business, it’s wise to pay attention to what successful companies are doing. U.S. restaurant chain Chipotle has had its problems in the food safety department but the company is posting better sales lately and continues to make cutting-edge moves.Have you heard about its program to send workers to college to get a business degree? The degree, available exclusively to Chipotle employees through Bellevue University in Nebraska, combines hands-on learning with theory to help employees advance their careers within the restaurant chain. The degree program, which is designed around employees’ schedules and can be completed in 18 months, aims to help staff learn about business operations including people development, marketing and decision-making. Students also are eligible for financial assistance and other benefits. What an amazing, can-do program! I am not suggesting independent pizzerias have the resources to do the same, but moves like Chipotle’s can inspire us to remember the big picture. They also can offer clues to what young people seek in a job. At the top of that wish list are training and career development opportunities. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 87 per cent of millennials say development is important in a job. There is one way you can support staff members in their personal and career goals that doesn’t cost a thing but your extra time and attention. It’s called mentoring, and some of you are already doing it.Pizzeria owners, managers and supervisors can play a huge role in the lives of their employees by being their mentors. This is a win-win for employers and staff: it not only provides the training so many young workers are looking for but it also builds loyalty in your staff. In the process it can help you retain good staff and recruit more good staff when word of your actions gets around.It’s important to lead your team, yes, but mentoring is a little different. It involves guidance but also friendship that can be tricky to navigate for the supervisor-employee relationship. Traits of a good mentor include listening, guiding, educating, being accessible, criticizing constructively, being supportive, specific and well respected in their community.Some of you already fill the roles of mentor and mentee. It’s not always spelled out but I witness this supportive relationship regularly when talking with pizzeria operators. One pizzeria owner told me she and her husband have a young employee they trust, value and care about deeply. They know they can rely on him to run the store when they are away and this cuts down on their stress. In turn the couple encourage him in his college work, scheduling around his study hours and even contributing to his college fund. They consider their star employee family.Do you see great potential in one or more of your employees? Do they regularly exceed expectations? Or, just as important, is there someone who struggles and needs guidance?Do what you can to bring them along and you could see a big payoff in employee loyalty and morale. By playing the teaching role – but listening to your student – you may even learn something yourself.Baby boomers often are told they should meet young people halfway and not expect them to share their values. Being a mentor gives you a chance to instil those values in someone who may never have learned them – and a chance to appreciate their values.