I was consulting on an engagement. The assessor on the project was mentoring a new assessor, but the new assessor hadn’t arrived, yet. He was having travel issues and ended up arriving on-site halfway through the engagement.
Once he arrived, the junior assessor was quick to make comments and ask questions without first considering the impact that his questions would have. He thoughtlessly asked about issues that had already been discussed before he arrived, which made it awkward for everyone else in the room. I could only watch it unfold, live in front of the client, as the senior assessor tried to get things back under control.
I’ve never seen an outstanding assessor mentoring relationship. Most firms simply don’t do assessor mentoring well. Everyone is too busy, so taking the time to invest in the junior assessor plays second fiddle to accomplishing day-by-day objectives. Training just kind of dribbles out over an extensive period of time.
There are some best practices you can follow to make the mentoring relationships at your firm more successful. It just requires a bit of thoughtfulness on the part of the mentor, the mentee, and your assessment firm.
As the senior assessor, you set the stage for the success of the mentoring relationship. Your approach to it will put you and your mentee in position for a smooth mentorship or a rocky one.
good old days
There was a time when you were the newbie. Take a moment to remember what those first months as an assessor were like. You were dropped into a new situation and you had to get your arms around your firm’s way of doing business — fast.
- What’s the engagement process, and how does the organization approach an assessment?
- How does the firm work with clients?
- Where do I put files?
- How do the spreadsheets and templates work?
- What does my mentor expect from me?
- What’s my role on this engagement? How proactive should I be?
- What am I allowed to say or ask in front of the client?
Place yourself in your junior assessor’s shoes and acknowledge how much their head is swimming right now. It may be appropriate to slow down a little for a short time, so they can better assimilate all of the information they’re trying to absorb.
Your mentee will have questions during an engagement, but it’s not always appropriate to ask them — especially in front of the client. They’ll also make mistakes or run into roadblocks that should get fixed as soon as possible.
Build into the process natural breaks in the action to have one-on-one time with the junior assessor. Regular pulse checks let you answer questions while they’re still fresh in their mind. Use the time to ask questions, make observations, and address any issues before they become a problem.
Meeting at regular times each week keeps you both on the same page, especially before going into client meetings. It also helps to assimilate your mentee into your firm’s process while making the engagement easier on the client.
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Some mentorships go better than others. In my observation, the most successful mentorships are the ones where the senior assessor has a warm and open personality. They appear to be invested in the success of the new person, and they want that person to succeed.
The devotion of time that you’re putting into a mentorship will pay dividends down the road, even though it requires an investment now. I’ve seen a lot of mentorships go sideways, because the senior assessor hadn’t fully adopted that objective. They were too busy to invest into the junior. In the process, the mentors set themselves up for less success and a higher level of pain in the long run.
Consider the client experience
Onboarding a new assessor can be tough for the client as well. They’re paying your firm a lot of money, and it can feel almost like they’re training somebody at their expense. If you’re working with a new client who doesn’t know you well yet, they’re still feeling you out to see if they can trust you with their business.
Throughout the engagement, place yourself in your client’s shoes. Consider how the effort is going from their perspective and do everything you can to deliver excellent service and maintain strong communication. The engagement shouldn’t come off as a paid training exercise.
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Your first days will be what you make of them. Rather than trying to prove your value to your mentor, prove your learnability. Be eager to learn and humble enough to receive instruction. At this point in your career, you’ll impress others if you learn quickly rather than try to show off your knowledge.
Watch and listen
Some junior assessors are bold, others are meeker. As a general rule, the bold ones are more likely to bring up things or ask questions that show they don’t know what they’re talking about yet. That can erode the client’s trust in your team and create awkwardness that your mentor has to deal with.
During your initial engagements, just observe. Take copious notes, listen, and keep your eyes open. Use your check-in times with your mentor to share your observations, make suggestions and ask questions. That way, you’re both on the same page when you’re in front of the client.
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Learn, learn, learn
Before you go into an engagement, put in extra time to learn as much as you can about how things work at your new firm. It will pay dividends in the long run. Your investment in extra hours will allow you to absorb the coming flow of information during an engagement much more quickly. Instead of trying to get your arms around the basics, you’ll get the most value out of those first couple of experiences in a live engagement. Remember, there will be a limited number of training missions, and you need to make the most of them.
Many mentorships fall short because they aren’t well supported by the organization. There’s little to no structure that makes it easy for mentors to lead an engagement while also onboarding a new assessor.
Recognize the burden
Mentoring a new assessor creates a major drain on a senior assessor’s time and energy. It slows down the engagement and introduces new issues to deal with.
Recognize the pain and sacrifices your mentors are making. It’s your firm, not the senior assessor, that benefits from that mentorship. Reward them with incentives that show authentic appreciation and restore their energy.
Develop a plan
An engagement can’t be done the same way as normal when you’re training a new assessor. Make these engagements more efficient and stress-free by developing a plan for altering your standard process during a mentorship. You should create at least four different engagement approaches, based on the context:
- Existing client, with no mentorship
- Existing client with a mentorship
- New client with no mentorship
- New client with a mentorship
Boost Your Onboarding
An assessor mentorship doesn’t have to be painful or awkward. Take the first step towards a better onboarding experience at your firm today — pick out one best practice that you can implement right now, and get started on a better training experience, for you and your clients. Then, schedule continuous improvement sessions to make the program shine.
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