Q&A: Bridging Generations Through Mentorship at Black & Veatch
For those working in the AEC industry today, two common themes consistently arise, regardless of one’s discipline: the generational divide and the growing gap in technology literacy. Firms grappling with creative ways to address these issues often discuss knowledge transfer and talent retention, in parallel. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers PwC report, Millennials currently make up 25% of the US workforce, growing to 50% by the year 2020. That is only 4 years away – or one project cycle for some firms. So how are the leading firms in our industry addressing these very real challenges?
Black & Veatch, a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company specializing in energy, water, telecommunications, and government markets, places a premium on employee development and retention. The firm’s Talent Development (TD) staff develops and delivers learning solutions to meet business needs with the specific intent to bridge the generational gap and reach outside of traditional means to develop talent. The same PwC survey reports that 35% of Millennials surveyed said they are attracted to employers who offer excellent training and development programs. Offering their insights, Associate VP, Human Resources & Director, Global Talent Management, Susan Lee, and Manager, Energy College, Dan Weatherly, weigh in on the value of mentorship programs and explain how they approach talent development at Black & Veatch.
Can you explain the need for mentorship programs within the AEC space as you see it and for Black & Veatch specifically?
Mentorship programs are imperative for the successful knowledge transfer we rely on as new professionals enter our business and as more seasoned professionals retire. The sharing of information specific to the AEC industry, and more specifically our business, ensures continued growth of our “talent bench” to lead our company into the future. Additionally, mentorship plays a role in the positive engagement and retention of our professionals – it creates a connection to our business and helps establish roots to our community, leading to increased tenure.
Black & Veatch has a formal mentoring program that matches mentees to mentors, provides orientation training for both, and tracks the progress of the resultant relationships. TD leverages this program by integrating it into the development plan for professionals.
Can you name and describe the mentorship and academic outreach programs that you maintain?
1. Fast Start Program – Fast Start is Black & Veatch’s approach to get our newly hired professionals up to speed quickly by offering training and support during their first year. Elements of note include a new professional checklist, a sponsor for all new professionals during their first 30 days and a mentor to provide long-term support and career planning resources.
2. Technology Conference – The annual Technology Conference is held over two weeks at our offices around the globe and virtually, for field-based professionals. Focused on themes including Innovation, Growth Initiatives, 2020 Strategic Intent, ONE Black & Veatch, Professional Development and Safety, the Technology Conference allows knowledge transfer within the company and supports development with the introduction of external thought leaders through sessions offered with application across our business lines.
3. Bentley Tools and Training – As Black & Veatch takes on projects reliant on Bentley tools for design, our use of the Bentley LEARN Server and in-house developed video and online content allow for efficient and effective knowledge transfer, just-in-time for launch of the project team. Training consists of hundreds of short videos (2-8 min) focused on a very specific task that can be consumed on demand at the time the knowledge/skill is needed.
4. eLearning modules – A majority of training content being developed for young professionals to introduce them to the business is delivered via eLearning modules. These are created with young learners in mind by “chunking” information into small packages for quick consumption. These modules are increasingly using video to keep the “YouTube” generation engaged. The goal is an extensive library of modules, easily searchable, to learn any task required of any position.
5. Knowledge Transfer Program – This helps senior professionals impart crucial Black & Veatch and industry knowledge and wisdom to our younger generation of leaders, engineers and technicians. This program helps retain critical tacit knowledge and personal experience. As an offshoot of this effort, the Encore Program enables select recent retirees to return to Black & Veatch on an interim basis with the sole purpose of transferring their knowledge.
What are Black & Veatch’s objectives?
The goal of our programs is to ensure professionals have the skills and knowledge they need to be effective, when they need it and to provide avenues for our more tenured professionals to share their knowledge prior to their retirement, allowing us to leverage all they know instead of losing their knowledge when they depart Black & Veatch.
What have been the “softer” ambient effects of these programs?
Improved retention and engagement of professionals; quicker time to productivity for our new professionals, especially on projects where specific tools are required.
Black & Veatch also recently hosted an inaugural hackathon featuring teams randomly composed of employees from across business levels and organizational levels–including interns and college students—to explore how they can push the boundaries of project delivery through the use of digital processes in Bluebeam Revu. Watch the video here.