Leader as Coach and Mentor Programme



With over 5,000 staff in the UK and over £1.3 billion of work each year, Skanska UK is part of the Swedish owned business and global construction and development group, Skanska. Their approach is to make a real difference to the way construction is delivered by combining their skills and expertise and by working closely with clients, partners and with the community. In the UK, Skanska carries out huge projects and thousands of small ones. From the Gherkin in London, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the M1 widening to replacing and renewing the gas, water, electricity and telephone lines around the UK, they are leaders in mechanical and electrical engineering, piling and foundations and much more.

Skanska UK looked carefully at their gender diversity, particularly in relation to the number of women they have in senior positions. There are differences in the gender mix between the Scandinavian businesses and that of the UK. Skanska UK wanted to be proactive in addressing this issue without utilising positive discrimination policies. The HR team at Skanska UK looked at a variety of options and elected to ask VBL to design and deliver a mentoring programme for both men and women in the business.


VBL matched senior managers with aspiring managers and developed a mentoring programme whereby each member of the programme would learn and develop. In order to address the gender diversity issue, we noticed the senior managers were all members of Skanska UK senior leadership team and were all men, whereas the aspiring managers were all women. Following consultation with HR, the programme was designed to be one year in length and to consist of a mixture of workshops and mentoring support for all involved. The approach taken was 70, 20, 10 - a concept that originally came from The Centre for Creative Leadership, which offers a sustainable way to develop and support all members of the programme and to transfer the learning back into the business.

The objectives for this programme were to:

  • develop an awareness around the importance of mentoring for female managers,
  • build a strong mentoring relationship between the mentor and mentee with trust and rapport,
  • develop a set of strong mentoring skills as a key to a positive and professional mentoring relationship,
  • learn to have the confidence to know when to listen and when to advise, and
  • appreciate the perspective of female managers in the construction industry.

The programme consisted of a launch workshop where the mentor and mentee developed their relationship and the mentors were given an understanding of the skills required to be an effective mentor. This was followed up with each of the mentors having three mentoring sessions to help them embed their learning into the mentoring meetings they each had with their mentees. Two workshops were designed and delivered to the mentees in the art of leadership and how women lead differently to men. The learning from these workshops was shared with mentors and helped develop more specific learning plans. It also helped develop new behaviours in the mentees as they progressed with their careers. The final part of the programme involved the mentees agreeing to take the programme in-house and to run it themselves for other aspiring female managers in the future. VBL have agreed to support this in-house programme with advice, experience and knowledge.


For the Mentors – members of the senior leadership team valued the learning they developed around their mentoring skills. Some of these senior managers had very technical backgrounds and valued the one-to-one mentoring sessions they had with VBL mentors as they continued to work with their mentees.

For the Mentees – They appreciated the quality of the mentoring they received from their mentors. They understood the value of having a mentor and how setting this relationship up in a professional and explicit way improved their learning and visibility in the business. They valued the workshops on ‘Women in Leadership’ because these helped them to understand what they needed to learn and the action required to make progress with their careers. They also valued the connections they made with other mentees as a result of the programme. They have subsequently formed a close group of individuals who meet on a regular basis to share experiences, knowledge and understanding about leadership and career progression for women in an industry that is predominantly made up of male managers.