Mentoring case study – COX

Shohan Somasundaram , 15 August 2022

COX Architecture outlines how their mentoring program works, the benefits and challenges of implementation, and some advice for others keen on setting up a program for their own practice.

Why did you set up a mentoring program?

COX management in Sydney gather annually at our Advance Day to plan and discuss future initiatives that are to be implemented within the Studio. Several years back, as the Studio saw significant growth, the topic of mentoring and coaching was highlighted as an opportunity. We saw it as a way to increase office engagement on a different level as well as coach and guide staff to achieve personal or professional goals.

How many people have been mentored since the commencement of the program?

We are moving into our third year of the program with approximately 80 mentees within the Studio benefiting from the program. Many mentee/mentors have continued with their session past the ending of the formal engagement.

How does your mentoring program work?

The program runs for 12 months with approximately 10 months of formal sessions. Senior designers through to directors volunteer to be mentors and are provided with formal training through an External Coaching and Mentoring Company.

A survey is distributed to all staff within the Sydney Studio. It has questions to ascertain why the staff member wishes to join the program as well as their commitment to the process.

The Mentoring Committee consists of Associates, who review the survey results from mentees and match them with their prospective mentors.

Once this process has been completed, we inform all mentees of who their mentors will be and set up a formal training for mentees to help them understand the process and how to get the most out of the program. Our program is mentee-led; we expect the mentees to schedule the monthly sessions and guide the discussion.

After the 10 months all participants complete a simple survey to help identify any issues or successes.

What are the benefits of the program for individuals and for the practice?

The benefits are sometimes hard to identify as all sessions are confidential. The feedback we have received from individuals has been overwhelmingly positive, with many noting that it has given them a forum to champion their goals and also meet new staff and form new relationships. There are enormous benefits for the Studio, from the new professional relationships formed, the goals of the mentees coming to fruition, as well as the cross fertilisation between mentor and mentee.

What are the challenges of the program and how have you addressed these?

With all programs in their infancy, challenges are inevitable. Some of the challenges have been unsuccessful pairings due to other commitments or personality clashes. All mentors and mentees are able to contact the committee to discuss their concerns and we then review and implement a plan to resolve the issue.

What advice would you share with another practice about to set up their own mentoring program?

With all new endeavours it’s a challenge to resolve all the teething issues before beginning. It’s best to be open and honest with the staff and have processes in place to ensure you can respond to issues as they arise. My best advice is to jump in and give it a go. The benefits of a program outweigh the hiccups along the way. My other advice is to use a mentoring and coaching professional to train and guide you. As designers, this isn’t a field we are experts in. Ensuring that mentors are trained and mentees understand how mentoring works ensures a strong foundation to the program.

If you missed our Stepping Up session on Mentoring, you can watch the video recording at a time that suits you. For more information on mentoring, see our other Mentoring case studies, Mentoring Resources, What is Mentoring & Why Does it Matter?, and How to Create a Mentoring Program.