We launched our HR mentoring programme for the media, entertainment and retail industries in July 2011. It’s now in its fifth round. To date, about 80 HR professionals have taken part from organisations including Sony Music, McCann Erickson, ITV, Trip Advisor, BBC Worldwide, ASOS and Cath Kidston.
The scheme was essentially born out of a conversation with an HR director friend and client: often HR team development comes at the bottom of the list in company L&D strategy and budget. It is a great way of offering an alternative development source without impacting HR team budgets and HRDs’ time.
To begin the process, we identify the key objectives an individual wants to achieve through short training sessions and one-to-one interviews – and we match mentors and mentees on that basis. Often, an alternative industry perspective or insight into specialist HR areas is considered during the matching process.
Taking control of your professional development
Faye Mclean, then resourcing manager for Topshop and Topman, took part in the second round of the programme. We matched her with the head of recruitment at a global consumer electronics brand.
She says: “The biggest challenge was arranging times to meet as we are both so busy, but this was easily overcome with adequate planning. Commitment is key to the success of the scheme. We first met in a professional environment but the relationship has evolved into a friendship over time. We get on well and are still in touch.”
Our mentors are independent advisors who are able to help mentees manage their careers and deal with specific work-related issues. Faye believes that her mentor enabled her to view challenges from a different angle by sharing her own experiences.
“Being a step away from your own organisation can be really beneficial. It allows you to air your thoughts and opinions so that your mentor can advise you on a concise way to overcome any issues when you get back to the office. We met every month or two in order to assess the impact of the steps I had been advised to implement.”
We work on the ethos that mentoring is a two-way street and innovation can come from the bottom up. The partnerships are designed to allow knowledge to flow both ways. “I’d like to think that we both learned from each other, and the most important lesson the programme taught me was how management works both ways,” explains Faye.
Nurturing emotional intelligence
The mentoring programme is designed to offer an emotional education as well as develop practical skills. While the mentee becomes more self-aware through gaining confidence, insights and improving their existing skills, the mentor gets an opportunity to hone their management capabilities and gain a fresh perspective on their industry. Mentors are experts in their fields and it’s inspiring for mentees to learn how they got to where they are.
“The way my mentor composed herself was really important,” explains Faye, “her gravitas made me more aware of how I present myself to others. She also encouraged me to talk through my strengths and consider what career options are available to me.”
Some HR professionals believe that skills and experience should only be shared within an organisation. Faye disagrees: “We all work in the same industry and new ideas are only able to evolve when they are shared”.
We’ve had a positive response with some encouraging results in terms of development, progression and a great foundation for friendship.
For us, it’s a great learning opportunity and a chance to understand our clients’ business even better – to get under the skin of what challenges they face day to day. Extending the mentor scheme into a wider HR industry network, including events and round tables, offers everyone a great forum for learning.
Watching our early mentors develop and grow professionally is hugely rewarding. Mentoring initiatives offer advantages that are unparalleled by other training and development programmes. And the overwhelming demand that each new round of the scheme generates indicates that HR professionals are eager to take advantage of the benefits.
interim HR professional
Faye is a seasoned HR professional who has worked across all HR functions in organisations including Topshop & Topman and Disxcovery Communications.