29 Aug 22 Staffordshire University: Miniature Q&A
It’s been some time now since we attended the AGCAS annual conference, and with thanks to the great turnout we had for our presentation alongside Lucy and Laura from Staffordshire University, we found ourselves in a position that meant we ran out of time to answer everyone’s questions!
Staffordshire University is one of the fantastic AGCAS members with whom we collaborate. Lucie Brown and Laura Cope, Mentoring Leads, chose sfG MentorNet after a lengthy process of deciding which mentoring platform to use.
We’ve had a great working relationship with Lucie and Laura since Staffordshire University came on board, and they’ve been fantastic at organising and running their mentoring programmes. Staffordshire University currently runs six mentoring programmes, each of which varies in terms of the audience to which the programmes are delivered.
We appreciate everyone who came to see us during the conference week, and we also appreciate your questions, so we’ve compiled some responses from Lucy and Laura with regards to their mentoring programme, that they didn’t get around to delivering in person on the day.
Why did you decide to use a mentoring platform and could you talk a little on the journey of how you came to selecting sfG MentorNet?
When we started the mentoring programmes in September 2020, we soon realised that there was a real appetite for mentoring at the university. For example, in our first cohort of professional mentoring, we had over 500 students sign up via Microsoft forms!
With 2 strands of mentoring and the volume of mentees/mentors involved, we soon realised that matching via excel spreadsheets would be impractical.
This is for a number of reasons including; making matches which may not have been successful, recording who have been unmatched and ensuring they are not re-matched together etc could prove difficult.
This is when we submitted a business case to obtain a mentoring platform.
We went through a procurement process with sfG MentorNet and 5 other mentoring platforms.
sfG MentorNet was our number one choice because of:
● Matching algorithm that fits our needs
● Flexibility of user profile (they are customisable)
● Ongoing support from team throughout, from set up and beyond!
● Ability to host multiple mentoring strands
● Provision of evaluation tools for end of mentorships
● sfG MentorNet team worked with our digital service team to set up single sign on so students can use their university credentials
● Availability of an sfG MentorNet app
● Comparatively to other platforms, sfG MentorNet is fantastic value for what they offer
What type of promotional activity have you found to be most successful – particularly to engage students with the Professional Mentoring Scheme?
Emails are the most successful! Ensure you get your wording/messaging right, thinking about your target audience for maximum impact.
For example, our students didn’t respond well to words like ‘help’ or ‘support’ but did respond to messaging such as ‘ambitious students’ or ‘students who want to get ahead’.
We have also produced posters, QR codes for events, case study videos, and got academics on board who share the message.
How is the mentoring programme funded – is it completely internal funding or do you gain additional external funding/through employers/sponsorship? (More curious how you can offer such great rewards!)
Completely internal funding. Our rewards, such as Stoke City games, come from being partners with the club, who then offer a certain number of tickets per season. Other rewards such as amazon vouchers come from our budget.
When in the student journey do you advertise/market the platform to secure engagement?
Right at the beginning!
In the first few weeks that the students are at university (especially welcome week), we try to engage with them and offer the University Life mentoring. Once they are on the platform, it is much easier to sell other strands of mentoring.
What were some of the pain points or barriers you faced prior to using a mentoring platform and how have these improved?
Where do we start…
● Dealing with the volume of students on excel spreadsheets
● Keeping details of participants up to date
● Having to ‘re-sign’ up participants every cohort
● Mentees not having ownership of matches – leading to unmatching
● Not being able to monitor if mentees/mentors were engaging
● Fewer participants in evaluation
● Resources were sent via email threads and were hard to keep track of
● DUPLICATES. People getting matched between 4-6 times, because they’d sign up multiple times with different names…and different emails!!
● Admin intensive
With sfG MentorNet, the need for relying on spreadsheets is removed, as all information regarding mentors and mentees is available online via the platform.
Matchmaking can also be adjusted to suit your needs – with the ability for mentees to source which mentors best suit the skills they are looking to improve, and mentors or programme leads having the ability to accept matches.
Engagement can be monitored, by participants logging their interaction such as calls and messages. Not only this, but evaluation forms can be customised and sent out periodically to gain feedback from those taking part in the mentoring programme.
Not only can communication be sent directly to individuals or groups of mentees through the sfG MentorNet platform, but there is also a resources and forums functionality, allowing for resources to be shared in one easy-to-find place as well as conversations to be managed via forum platform.
All of this functionality, and more, allow for a much smoother running in terms of the programme and a reduction in administration time.
Can mentee/mentors only ‘meet’ via the platform or can they meet on other tools or in person and do you record those interactions too ?
We encourage people to use the platform but allow them to meet via zoom, email, face-to-face if they wish to so. We don’t record these interactions but do offer record forms and safeguarding training.
Could you recap the benefits/rewards for the mentors, please?
● Mentor awards
● Rewards such as Stoke city game
● CPD / CV building
● Opportunity to network with other mentors
● Invited to free university events, e.g. coffee mornings, podcast workshops, networking for creatives, workshop for business skills
And there we have it, folks! We hope that hearing directly from sfG MentorNet user and mentoring leads, from Staffordshire University has been beneficial to you.
If you are interested in finding out more about sfG MentorNet, including the functionality and benefits of using a mentoring platform, you can find information on our website. Alternatively, our team are always keen to speak to those involved in mentoring, to see if we can help you.