Joy Maitland Interviewed for ContentLive
Part of a series of practical guides tailored to start-ups and SMEs. Bosses with patience and a taste for the long game will find that mentoring is a rewarding way to build talent and customise staff to their firms’ cultures.
Spurred by the rise of fintech, alternative lending and disruptive forms of e-commerce, the UK’s pool of start-ups and SMEs is thriving – and looks set to enjoy further growth. Just a few weeks ago, lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman unveiled plans to kick-start around 200 technology start-ups over the next five years. But SMEs that harness the strengths of their people will be best equipped for long-term survival – and one of the most effective ways of doing that is by mentoring staff.
Mark Tillison, managing director of digital marketing agency Tillison Consulting, explains: “Mentoring helps us to quickly make new recruits part of our team. More importantly, it enables their work to have a valuable, and rapid, impact. Mentoring should go beyond rigid ‘training’, and help to embed not just technical skills, but also a firm’s culture and work ethic.”
Tillison urges bosses to approach mentoring with patience, and a taste for the long game. “We took many years to hone and refine our mentoring and development programme,” he says. “Today, the fruits of that investment are a flexible structure that sets clear outcomes and timescales, but also allows mentors and mentees to focus on quick wins early on. That maximises mentees’ engagement and confidence, as well as returns for the business.”
Creating a culture
As Tillison hints, mentoring provides bosses with the opportunity to customise their staff in ways that pure-play skills training often doesn’t. Hannah Duraid, director of Sheffield leisure venue the Great Escape Game, agrees. “Mentoring is a huge part of creating a culture,” she says. “The main challenge with our firm is ensuring staff provide a fun environment while maintaining a professional air. We have brought in appraisal systems and other policies and procedures to give staff direction on that front.”
She adds: “I have just appointed one of our crew members, Tom, to a supervisor role. This is quite a drastic change, so we are mentoring him through it. Constant discussion and feedback are key. I have explained how I’ve handled my own responsibilities, and how I’ve nurtured respect and a positive work ethic among our staff. However, I have also stressed that it’s important for Tom to develop his own style, rather than copy someone else.”
“Mentoring helps us to quickly make new recruits part of our team. More importantly, it enables their work to have a valuable, and rapid, impact”