Basic considerations will enrich your mentoring program.

Now that all of the over-65 "golden" retirees and semiretirees are permitted to earn unlimited wages and still collect their Social Security, your skilled craft shortage is over. Naturally, you now must do your part. We still have some rocks on the road, but this superhighway is wide open for any contractor willing to make it work.

Our Green & Gold mentoring agenda is quite simple, but details and complications vary with every individual and job. You must bear in mind that all of these Gold Mentors have only two predominant factors in common: They all were "born to build," and they lived through the Depression. Consequently, they learned some basic lessons the hard way.

1. There is no free lunch. You have to work if you want to eat.
2. Waste not, want not. Take good care of your tools and equipment so they will work when you need them.
3. Live within your means. Stay away from personal debt.
These were positive lessons that shaped their lives and were evident in their working behavior. You almost could predict exactly how they would act or react under any situation or circumstance.

Let's look at a few of the extenuating circumstances that have affected the way each of these "golden" individuals now think and act, along with what you might expect and do with each specific situation.

Write It In Stone

Gold Mentors come from the "old school," where a man is only as good as his word, but unfortunately they have had to deal with people who did not always honor their word to them.

At the top of this long list are broken promises and withheld cost-saving bonuses from their employers. Along with the resulting disappointment and loss of motivation came many employees calloused with a lack of faith or trust in whatever anyone promised.

Your best bet to create an ever-so-critical mutual trust is to make a win-win up-front deal and document every promise and expectation to eliminate misunderstandings or assumptions. Both of you need to sign this agreement.

Give him a copy, and keep your copy in his personnel file. Should either of you fail to meet any of your commitments for any reason, you then can review and revise your original agreement and retain that trust.

Treat Them Right: Most "golden" contractors did not have written company policies or rules. Employees would receive public criticism or undeserved discipline for anything their boss didn't like or agree with. Since they didn't believe in a rigid chain of command, this criticism often would come from someone who was not even the immediate supervisor.

This demeaning abuse caused major turnover problems and discouraged many of these proud craftsmen from accepting foremanship roles.

You need to discuss and agree on whatever rules you intend to enforce, and do this with the boss who will enforce them. These Gold Mentors usually will want a flex-time work shift that coincides with their semiretirement and physical endurance. This is easy to adapt to your specific mentoring needs.

Explain and emphasize the critical importance of following your written chain of command to prevent any abuse to or from your mentor. You must clearly define his role with his protégé to eliminate any possibility of answering to two bosses. Here again, document all of this and keep your copy in his file.

In all of my human relations training seminars, I emphasize the need for recognition and appreciation. Why would you go out of your way to do something extra for anyone who didn't appreciate it?

Keep this in mind with your Gold Mentors: "Anyone good wants to be measured." They want you to keep score, and they will make sure the score is always one they can be proud of.

Unless your Green & Gold mentoring program is totally hands-on, you will need a written job description clearly itemizing your Gold Mentor's scope of work. This eliminates any question or doubt about when a "thank you" or "attaboy" is earned and needed.

The Personal Experience Factor

Your Gold Mentor's years of experience naturally involved exposure and some form of contact with unions.

Some served a union apprenticeship and worked successfully and happily as productive craftsmen for good signatory contractors. Naturally, they are proud and pro-union. They may not be interested or willing to mentor a non-union protégé, and surely you can respect that.

Some worked both union and non-union, with good and bad experiences with one or both. You simply need to discuss his preferences and adapt them to your situation.

Others had bad relations as a union member or unpleasant confrontations with union members. Their preference probably will include no exposure to or contact with the unions.

In addition to all of these influential jobsite factors, each of these "golden" individuals also experienced a multitude of personal and social situations that affected their attitude and actions. Here is a list of a dozen circumstances that I've witnessed and shared with jobsite personnel through my working years:

1. Loyal and dedicated family men with too little time to spend with their families.
2. Unfortunate family disappointments, including sickness, injuries and debts.
3. Single employees who became workaholics; some became "good time Charlies," and a few turned to booze.
4. Personal injury and disability.
5. Lifelong memories from WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
6. Lack of formal education, including no high school or college.
7. Bad luck starting a business, or poor investments with personal money.
8. Good luck that made them wealthy.
9. Fishing, hunting and sports enthusiasts who enjoyed life.
10. Workaholics who fought the Depression and moonlighted to support their personal needs.
11. Chauvinists who sincerely believed this is a "man's world."
12. Discriminators against race, color or creed.

Common sense tells you that you will not be able to discover all of these factors with every Gold Mentor you recruit. But acknowledging and dealing with these elements easily could convince them to come work for you.

The more you learn about their past experiences and attitudes, the more rewarding your Green & Gold mentoring program will be for you, your protégés and your Gold Mentors.