Portfolio People Director Liz Allan has been mentoring both managers and HR staff in local businesses in the East of England, with impressive results.
Why bring in an HR mentor?
The businesses Liz currently works with may be in completely different industries – from tech to agribusiness to construction – but they have several things in common. They are all a similar size (100+ employees), all have a full-time member of staff looking after HR – but more importantly, all were seeking a more experienced voice in the business to help address complex people issues.
A skilled HR director and professional business coach, Liz brings 25 years of experience gained at Novartis, Danaher and Cambridge Assessment, into smaller businesses. ‘At larger organisations, HR staff are nurtured and developed by a more experienced HR director, but at smaller companies, they’ll often report directly to the CEO,’ Liz says. ‘And if they lack confidence, the CEO might find that they bring more problems to the table than solutions.’
Liz’s mentoring programme normally centres around:
- Upskilling managers to help them get the best out of their teams;
- Introducing online HR systems to reduce administrative burden; and
- Developing the skills and confidence of in-house HR staff.
Inexperienced managers who lack the skills and capacity to deal with people issues will often refer the problems to HR. Mentoring encourages those managers to come up with their own solutions without involving HR every time there’s a problem.
Digital HR systems might appear onerous and expensive – but streamlining processes frees up staff to spend more time on the core aims of the business and a cloud-based subscription service can be very cost-effective. ‘I try to get HR staff away from being administrators to being facilitators,’ says Liz. ‘That is where the value is – facilitating change, growth and productivity.’
Developing HR staff
Mentoring doesn’t just help those starting out in HR – long-serving employees who haven’t worked anywhere else can benefit from a fresh perspective. ‘We bring a knowledge base from a variety of organisations and industries,’ says Liz. But the ultimate aim is to develop in-house capability to address opportunities like career development, staff engagement, diversity in the workforce and succession planning. ‘If you get those things right, you will drive superior performance,’ she adds.
A successful mentoring programme usually starts with agreeing specific goals with everyone involved. These can range from completing specific projects – such as a restructure – to simply increased confidence. ‘I check in regularly with the leaders to make sure they’re noticing a difference,’ says Liz.
The results speak for themselves, however. After 18 months of mentoring 1-2 days per month, one of Liz’s mentees has passed a set of HR qualifications, managed a redundancy, written an HR plan based on the business strategy (to the approval of her CEO) and has started looking at succession planning. ‘They’re getting a more confident in-house HR service,’ says Liz. ‘It’s the difference between having someone who brings you problems to solve, to someone who facilitates meaningful solutions and alternatives.’
Our part time portfolio model allows affordable access to this level of expertise to help your existing HR team. We would love to have chat with you about how and come up with a couple of ideas together on some ways we power up your HR. Please do drop us an email at [email protected]