Peer mentoring

When leaders are scarce, employees look to peers

April 19, 2012: 9:30 AM ET

To attract the kind of people they need, large organizations like Microsoft and KPMG are flipping the idea of mentoring on its head.

By Ethan Rouen

FORTUNE -- Hiring may be easier when unemployment rates hover near double digits, but super talented candidates with years of experience will hardly ever hurt for a job.

When Microsoft (MSFT) recently was looking to snag 300 senior managers from the competition, the company tried a different approach than the usual.

"We want people with entrepreneurial spirits who also want to innovate in the way they do their jobs," says John McCloskey, director, worldwide strategy and sales. "Money alone is not what's going to convince them to come to Microsoft."

To attract the kind of people it needed, the tech behemoth offered a new program that flipped the idea of mentoring on its head. The 300 new senior employees have been paired up with people at similar experience levels to serve as mentors to the Microsoft veterans.

MORE: How do you get into Harvard Biz School?

This strategy is just one of many peer mentoring schemes that large corporations have been using to keep employees motivated in an economic environment where the path to the top is often believed to require hopping from firm to firm, says Brian Kropp, managing director at the Corporate Executive Board. More

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