Making the Most of Mentors

October 14, 2001
Training is viewed as only one part of ADI's approach to employee development. "We want employees to gain the skills and competencies necessary to do a good job and support the business strategy," says Larry Raskin, director of training and development. "Formal training is not the only way to get that."

Large Company
Name: Analog Devices, Inc.
Location: Norwood, Massachusetts
Business: Manufacturer of semi-conductor components
Employees: 10,000

Along with sending employees to standard classes, and Web-based training courses and seminars, ADI's development model includes on-the-job training, coaching to help people in their daily jobs, and mentoring to help employees further their careers.

Of these approaches to development, formal training is the most expensive, Raskin says. At ADI, development programs are charged back to line managers' budgets. "They make decisions about who goes to training when," Raskin says. So, when the semiconductor industry began to soften and budgets started to shrink, Raskin saw a drop in spending on big-ticket training items such as conferences, business school classes, and participation in internal workshops.

When times are lean, managers are less inclined to spend money on programs that are not directly tied to the business strategy, he says. And when managers don't spend money on training, Raskin's department does less business. As a result, he was unable to hire an expected addition to the staff. Because the development model offers multiple solutions for employee improvement, Raskin turned his sights toward less costly programs such as mentoring and coaching. It was a way to help employees develop skills during tougher economic times.

ADI developed its mentor and coaching programs when times were good because it was an integral part of the three-tiered development approach. But, Raskin says, "good coaching and mentoring programs are recession-proof. They don't cost much; you just need the time."

ADI has always had informal mentoring. Last November, Raskin launched a formal company-wide program that linked executives with up-and-coming employees. The veterans would help support the younger employees throughout their careers. "There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for this program," he says. "It's an excellent opportunity for younger employees to work with senior staff and share in their wisdom. And we didn't have to spend a lot of money."

Participants go through a daylong program, half of which is spent learning about being a mentor or protégé; the other half is spent with the partners to plan the new relationship.

Despite the lack of money for other training programs, Raskin expects the program to be very popular and a great asset to the company.

"If we had just been a training department, we probably would have lost more money and people in the recession," he says. But taking advantage of the company's people assets has kept his department and the company's development strategies going strong.

Workforce, October 2001, pp. 87-88 -- Subscribe Now!