Step 5: Coaching and Mentoring for Long-Term SuccessStep 5: Coaching and Mentoring for Long-Term Success

A child is born with the gift of a learning spirit, which is to be nourished throughout life.

– Elder

Assessment: Determining Need for Coaching or Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are two different activities, yet they are both very helpful for ensuring that your new Indigenous employee is successful on the job. To decide which program is right for you and your employees, assess any skill gap the employee has, based on the information you have learned throughout the hiring and orientation process.

Skill Gap:  __________________________________________________

Describe how you would like to see the person improve; set a developmental objective.

Developmental Objective: __________________________________________________

Review the table below against the objective you have in mind, and assess which program will meet the developmental objective you have set.1

Mentoring Coaching
  • Is an ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time.
  • Can be more informal; meetings can take place as and when the learner needs some advice, guidance or support.
  • Is more long term; takes a broader view of the person.
  • Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the learner. Often is a senior person in the organization who can pass on knowledge and experience and can open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities.
  • Focus is on career and personal development.
  • Agenda is set by the learner, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare the learner for future roles.
  • Mentoring revolves more around developing the learner overall.
  • Relationship generally has a set duration.
  • Is generally more structured in nature; meetings are scheduled on a regular basis.
  • Is short term (sometimes time-bounded); focused on specific development areas/issues.
  • The coach does not generally need to have direct experience of the client’s formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused.
  • Focus is generally on development/issues at work.
  • The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals.
  • Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues.

Before you assign a coach or mentor to Indigenous employees, ensure that he or she has read and understood the sections of this Guide on Indigenous cultures.

On-the-Job Coaching for Indigenous Employees

An important learning strategy for Indigenous peoples is Trial & Feedback, which is nicely aligned to the notion of on-the-job (OTJ) coaching. Indigenous children most often are taught by observation and imitation; observation provides a concrete, holistic image of the task to be performed. In the workplace, OTJ coaching is a concrete learning method – that is, it provides examples that can be directly perceived by one of the senses. When working with Indigenous employees, this is a good method to offer to the learner, as it is culturally familiar. Contrast this approach to a typical non-Indigenous learning style, where learners are asked to read instructions and reflect on how they think this would work in practice. As an employer in construction, consider ways in which you can bridge an individual’s skill gap by partnering them with an on-the-job coach.

Creating a Mentoring Program for Success

From an Indigenous perspective, informal mentoring has a long history, derived from the cultural value of teaching and learning from the whole community. Family and relationship are central to social organization, and entire families may mentor one another’s children. In the workplace, research has shown that engagement and retention of new employees are enhanced by effective mentoring practices. For First Nations, Métis and Inuit workers in particular, a mentor can provide important support for addressing the additional challenges of balancing their culture and traditions with the demands of a structured work environment and/or an urban living environment, often at a considerable distance from their home community.

Mentoring, especially for Indigenous employees, is an important element of achieving and sustaining organizational goals around diversity and inclusion. Specifically, mentoring Indigenous employees provides the opportunity to

  • Increase the retention of existing Indigenous employees, support and encourage more Indigenous staff to take up senior positions, and increase the ability to recruit and hire new Indigenous employees through being an inclusive and best practice employer.
  • Increase the organizational ability to adapt to change and respond to a variety of experiences by creating a culture of trust and openness among all employees.
  • Create an organizational culture of inclusion whereby employees enjoy and exploit the opportunities created by a highly diverse and motivated workforce.

Adapting a Mentoring Program for Indigenous Employees

Organizational support for mentoring can range from finding one mentor for one employee to establishing a sustainable mentoring program with many participants. In the design, the organization must consider that people from rural and remote Indigenous communities will tend to learn and teach in ways that are different from a mainstream or urban perspective. This is especially important when matching Indigenous learners with non-Indigenous mentors. The program should emphasize beliefs and values that are aligned with the Indigenous worldview – for example, training mentors to integrate storytelling as a way to impart learnings and messages. To ensure that your program is culturally appropriate, include an Elder or members of the local community in the design and consider making this resource available to mentors for advice and support through the program. Remember that while mentoring itself is a traditional feature of Indigenous culture, the term “mentor” may not be; consider using similar terms, such as “guidance” or “partnering.”

Your organization may not currently have enough senior Indigenous employees to create one-on-one pairs. Thus it is important to provide cultural sensitivity training to the non-Indigenous mentors, and to consider mentors who have shown ability to behave in culturally appropriate ways with employees from any background that is different from their own. Another culturally appropriate way to address the potential lack of mentors is to create a program around the concept of group mentoring. Traditional practices such as the sharing circle are one way to effectively meet the objectives of a mentoring program with few mentors.

Tool: Questions to Consider for an Indigenous Mentoring Program

  • How will the mentoring program contribute to the increase of Indigenous participation in the organization or the construction industry?
  • How will the mentors benefit?
  • How will the learners benefit?
  • What support is needed for the program?
  • Who can best sponsor the program?
  • Who will provide ongoing support to both mentors and learners?
  • How will mentors be selected?
  • Who will pair mentors with learners?
  • What criteria should be considered for matching mentors with learners?
  • How would the program be rolled out?
  • How would the requirements of the program be communicated to potential mentors?
  • How would the program be communicated to the organization?
  • What are some of the resources needed for rolling out this program? (e.g. money, people, time)
  • What would be the measure of success for the mentoring relationship?
  • What would be the measure of success for this program?
  • What type of ongoing support should be provided for mentors and learners?
  • What type of reporting structure, if any, is needed?


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