Mentorship: Finding the balance

by on December 16, 2014 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
Factory Workers Internal Audit

You know that assigning new hires a mentor can be an extremely effective way to boost new hire performance and improve safety. But as you know, a lot of responsibility hangs on the mentor.

Case in point: We recently witnessed on-the-job training on a regional rail line. The mentor was giving advice off-the-cuff, asked the trainee to perform customer-service tasks, but then stepped in and took over when it wasn’t done correctly. In fact, the mentor gave off an attitude of being more proud of knowing what-to-do than demonstrating a willingness to share his knowledge.

When the safety stakes are higher, mentorship requires much more attention to detail. A 2013 accident in New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority subway lines shows the danger. A mentor stepped away from his desk and didn’t remain in contact with his trainee. The trainee, on the job for six months, removed a blocking device (electronic track lock that prevents trains from going down a section of track) and OKed a train to pass through. There was a worker conducting repairs on that track, and he was struck and killed.

It’s of course easy to second-guess, and of course mentors may need to step away from time-to-time. But one key aspect of training is determining how the trainee is doing and what level of responsibility they are ready for. In some cases, such as the first example here, mentors need to let trainees work it out. But when there are lives at stake, mentors need to require approval first – and be able to know when trainees are ready for greater responsibilities.

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