Nathan Whitehouse is the Marketing Manager at Certis, which develops crop protection solutions for UK and Ireland’s professional growers, with a focus on Integrated Crop Management. Certis joined MDS in 2016 and offers secondments within their marketing department. We spoke with Nathan about why he finds effective mentorship to be so important and how it can benefit both employees and businesses.
How does Certis encourage mentoring and development with new starters within your business?
I can clearly remember preparing for our first MDS Trainee at Certis. We had read all the documents from MDS and discussed how we would work with our Trainees. As with any new starter at Certis, we provided them with a buddy to help with day-to-day questions and finding where things are.
What was different was providing formal mentoring. We encouraged Trainees to come and discuss things that were on their minds or they needed help with at any time. You also have to be proactive, get to know your trainee as this helps to spot when they may be uncertain about something or what they have just been asked to do will be taking them out of their comfort zone. Then you can help mentor them through it. Be prepared to share your experiences, these will help the trainee to learn and know we have all faced similar challenges, it’s a part of life.
Why do you think it is important to provide additional development, mentoring coaching sessions?
They are trainees and this is often their real first experience of the workplace. MDS provides a great opportunity to embed within a diverse range of companies to gain an equally diverse range of experiences and knowledge which would otherwise take years to accumulate.
Member companies are an extension of the formal learning Trainees receive and help them apply the principles, and to experience how the real world can differ from the theory. We have to stretch them to support their post-graduate development and in return we receive a person capable of a role we require help with. My experience is the more you engage with trainees early, challenging them and providing mentoring support the quicker they develop and contribute to your business. The difference in confidence and capability between the trainee who starts with you and the one who leaves after six months will be a testament to this.
What benefits does this bring to the business and the individual?
We have given day-to-day management of Trainees to staff members to help them understand and develop their skill set for managing and motivating people. This helps prepare them for the next step in their careers and opens them up to what is needed when you have direct reports, such as setting expectations, clear communication and workload management.
The benefits for the Trainee is that when they join Certis we expose them to all parts of the business and all the staff. Our view is that MDS is a management development programme and these trainees will become managers in the future, and they will be helped by having wider business exposure beyond just their role.
Have you attended the Secondment Management Training?
I attended the event in March and found it helpful. The breakout groups were a high point of the day for me. We had a mix of new and experienced secondment managers and this allowed for a lot of sharing and discussion. It also made me realise how much I had learnt and developed as a manager working with and mentoring trainees.
What benefits do you think the training had or could have to secondment managers?
I think it is really helpful, especially for new secondment managers or those who may not have managed people before. Trainees are bright, enthusiastic and hungry to develop, but they have not got a great deal of broad workplace experience. The training can help you level your expectations on what you can expect from a Trainee and how to support them improve. I would say do not underestimate what a Trainee is capable of and can achieve when supported. My personal experience is they are extremely quick to learn, integrate well and will do an excellent job.
Have you ever benefited from directed mentorship?
Looking back, I realised I have benefited from mentorship, although at the time they were not formal mentoring relationships. I have been fortunate enough to work with people who gave their time to share experiences, challenge and encourage me forward in my roles and career. This has been invaluable as part of my development and in turn what I can give back through mentoring others.
How do you feel you have benefited by mentoring individuals?
It has made me think you don’t always realise how much you have experienced and learned over time, and how valuable and helpful this can be for others. For me, this is the biggest benefit, to be able to give back and see Trainees grow in themselves as well as their roles.
If you have the motivation and time to mentor a Trainee I would recommend you seriously consider it, you’ll be amazed at how much both of you will enjoy it and grow.