Employer Mentoring Process Review
June / July 2016
Employer Student Mentoring is a highly successful programme managed by the Employer Opportunities Team within Student and Academic Services.
Over the past calendar year 145 students have participated in the programme; of which participant students have consistently improved degree outcomes and employability, compared to their peers. This is particularly important given that in order to be eligible for the scheme students need to be from widening participation backgrounds.
The programme is part of the University’s Outcome Agreement with the Scottish Funding Council, in which the University committed to increase participation in the scheme to 200 students.
In response to its success over the last six years the scheme has grown in number of students, with staff implementing ad-hoc solutions to respond to the changing needs of the programme. The Head of Employer Relations asked colleagues within the Employer Mentoring team to undertake a process review in order to ensure the sustainability of the programme at a time of significant organisational change and to improve efficiencies. It was felt that the process review would also help the team meet its targets and the requirements of the Scottish Mentoring Network’s (SMN) Quality Standards.
At the time of the review Student and Academic Services was facing a restructure which included the team currently operating the programme. The team wished to continue with a process review to ensure that the programme was able to successfully continue, throughout this time of change.
Given a full workload in the Employer Relations team it was chosen to approach the process redesign as a series of workshops, to run in parallel to the existing workload of staff required to maintain the programme.
A total of 5 workshops were run between 15 June and 7 July 2015, focussing on: current state process mapping, identifying ideas for improvement, and future state process mapping. Significant additional work was undertaken on the review outside of these workshop sessions by the team.
There were challenges in running these sessions in terms of ensuring availability of staff, as limited available time meant the review stretched past its original planned timeframe.
However, staff involved were flexible in the planned workshops, and as a group tailored discussions to meet the requirements of the live mentoring process. The team also worked to ensure that all changes to systems and processes will be implemented in advance of any organisational changes, for the benefit of the students involved in the programme.
There were a number of outcomes from the review which were immediately implemented, and others that have emerged in the 6 months following the review. These included:
Are being produced, based on the agreed future state, and referencing the new systems introduced as a result of the workshop. These will ensure the new process will be understood by staff taking over running the programme at any point in the future.
Use of new Systems
Increased knowledge of the business processes enabled the design of a SharePoint site to manage mentors, students, and the matching process end to end. This ensures that the team can move to a secure institutionally owned, paper light approach, where they can concurrently access student and mentor information, and flexibly report on demand.
In populating this system the team undertook a data-cleanse, ensuring the most accurate information is held (primarily regarding returning mentors). Furthermore the system is structured to ensure that the data to be entered in the future will be less prone to error than previously.
The full time saving benefits of this system will only become apparent as the team move through the academic year and use and adapt the system. Indications are that the SharePoint system adequately supports business processes, however, would benefit from further bespoke development beyond its off-the-shelf capability.
The team have also taken the opportunity to use EventBrite as a solution to booking their training and events, a solution which saves significant time and effort for staff who currently exchange a series of email with individual students in order to book them into an induction session. We also hope this will improve the student experience.
Neither of these new systems bear any cost to the team, and work towards a longer term possibility of implementing a bespoke mentoring management system. However, at this stage the team decided to prioritise implementing a new process for immediate use that can be designed in house, rather than undertaking a procurement process for a third party system.
We have estimated a number of savings from the new process which are all clearly identified in our Visio process map. We have currently mapped the potential staff time savings from using these new electronic systems to administrate the programme. Savings are modest and in the region of 50 hours of full time equivalent staff time for our Employer Relations Assistant.
We have still to experience a full year of the proposed benefits of changing this process, predicted to remove over-processing of applications before all student information has been submitted after induction. If the changes proposed in the new process are successful in delivering the same level of service then additional time savings in excess of 24hrs of coordinator time could be achieved. The team would plan to reinvest this time in achieving higher numbers of matches and in ensuring the quality of interaction with students and mentors is maintained.
In terms of paper, using the systems above will save the printing, sorting and filing of around 1000 sheets of paper.
The review has also enabled the Employer Mentoring team to be successful in gaining reaccreditation under the Scottish Mentoring Network’s Quality Standards in September 2015. The SMN Quality Award defines required performance levels and recognises mentoring programmes being delivered according to national and international standards. This award “demonstrates the commitment of a mentoring project to delivering a service which focuses on the expectations and requirements of its stakeholders. Achieving the Quality Award shows that a project is applying good practice to all aspects of its work”.
Only 9 projects in Scotland across both public and third sectors hold this award although we are the only University with accreditation. Our programme is also one of only two projects to achieve reaccreditation for a second 3 year period in 2015. The review provided much needed evidence for reaccreditation by evidencing how the team met quality indicator 5.3, to ‘Operate regular project reviews for staff to focus on any issues relating to the management of the service and its delivery.’
The most significant impact of this review is in the quality of the mentoring programme. The team are optimistic that the changes that they have made have increased visibility of the programme for team members, which will enable them to offer a better service to students, and better maintain relationships with mentors. This will be better evidenced through improved tracking of follow-along (the regular contacts team members make with students) and through feedback at the end of the years.
An unintended but very welcome result of the process review has been the keen interest in the review mechanism from the Chair of the Scottish Mentoring Network, Jacqueline Thomas. The Chair of the SMN has expressed her interest in disseminating details of the process review with SMN members across Scotland. This would provide a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations across the country with a valuable insight into the structure and scale of operations within Edinburgh Napier’s successful mentoring programme.
Team members report that the format of the workshops, in being as inclusive as possible, have developed an increased shared understanding of their business processes, and team working around these.
The difference involving the ABL team made:
Staff report that involving staff from the ABL team in the discussion phase was beneficial as they acted as a critical friend, providing an objective viewpoint and challenge, ensuring the team did not take for granted the way that the process had previously operated.
When it came to implementation, the team from ABL were able to provide technical insight, ensuring that they could initially trial, implement, and source training for a system to replace their Access database.
“Having these sessions has meant that we now have a real shared understanding of how we work as a team, and a well-considered way forward, all for the good of our student mentees and mentors”