Effective mentoring an alternative to recruitment

Effective mentoring an alternative to recruitment

Posted on 19/03/2013 by Phil Hall


Effective mentoring should be designed to get new employees up to speed quickly but not overrule normal coaching from within the organisation. Moreover it should not be concentrated exclusively on the person being mentored but looking at the wider context of how it can improve the whole business performance and the best interests of the company.

Some years ago I was engaged by the directors of a fast growing manufacturing company in the North London to find new blood to strengthen their middle management team. To understand the process, culture and to get to know the people who worked there I spent some time on site. I successfully completed my brief, recruited four new people when they asked me if I could find them a first class Purchasing Manager. They had grown rapidly to a turnover of £45 million and 110 people but had no central purchasing function. I advised them that to recruit anyone of any worth that they would be looking at a hefty salary. I knew that this would not go down well, so based on my knowledge acquired by getting to know their people I made a suggestion.

One of their older sales representatives, (we’ll call him Fred), had been with them from the formation of the company and had been decidedly unhappy when we recruited the new National Sales Manager. It was a role that he thought should have been his, but I had interviewed him and the truth was the company had outgrown him. However he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the customer base, the production process and all the suppliers. He was loyal, committed, hard-working, rarely off work and well liked and trusted by all. He knew how each department worked and all the foibles and the personalities within the organisation.

I proposed that if we could find a top class purchasing professional (I had someone in mind), who was at the end of his career but still wanting to work we could bring him in and have him mentor Fred into the purchasing role.  I proposed a six month period starting on three days a week and tailing off to one day plus telephone support.  It worked like a dream and was a win win for everyone.  Fred was happy with the new opportunity and more than a match for the job because of his intimate company knowledge. Nobody had a problem relating to Fred or accepting his new position he was part of the culture. The directors had someone in the role that had their best interests at heart and someone they knew and trusted. The customers and the suppliers all knew him.  It sent out a good message to the other employees that the company was prepared to promote from within, and indeed they adopted the method to move and develop others.

The mentor I provided was an ex Purchasing Director from a blue chip background who had been retired at sixty, but wasn’t happy being at home. Having met both parties I felt strongly that there would be a good rapport. A daily rate was agreed, which when set against the salary they would have had to pay plus my costs was agreeable to all.

Fred proved to be an excellent pupil (mentee) and went on to make a first class Purchasing Manager who saved the company thousands of pounds and retired in the role nine years later.

When looking at the organisation and considering how to strengthen and build upon the talent within, good HR input coupled with managerial co-operation should be able to identify suitable employees for mentoring.  Mentoring can be a very healthy alternative to recruitment.

HR Outsourcing, HR support, HR Help-Line, Mentoring, Talent Retention, Skills Coaching, Non Execs, Succession Planning