How to show the value of your mentoring schemes through evaluations

How to show the value of your mentoring schemes through evaluations

20 Apr 2021, by MentorNet in General Mentoring
A guest blog by Judie Gannon, Deputy Head of Doctoral Programmes, Oxford Brookes Business School

Highlighting the value of your mentoring schemes is difficult according to our report on mentoring schemes and their management and those we spoke to. Funders often want to see metrics for mentoring schemes, but this isn’t always the full picture, nor the only way to show their value. For one thing, you also want to capture narratives from participants. But additionally, how do you differentiate between the value of the mentoring scheme specifically and the broader programme or even course?

As there is a lot of activity going on, as well as efforts to get people to connect with others, which generally adds value, you need to do programme evaluation to demonstrate value – to funders, mentors and mentees. And it’s key to plan for it at the start of schemes – not just at the end.

Know what you are measuring – and capture it at the start

Different people take part in mentoring for a variety of reasons. There may be overall programme objectives, but each individual will have their own goals in taking part in this. Encouraging participants at the start of the course, to reflect upon and list their goals, helps provide them and their mentors with a focus in what they need and hope to achieve. It’s possible to ask the same questions part way through the course, but also at the end of the course. For some, it might be about next career moves, for others longer term goals, for another it may be about improving self confidence.

Too often from what we saw in our research, as well as talking to people, was that those of us running schemes can be so focused on supporting relationships on an on-going basis, that we don’t think to plan for evaluation. And yet planning for evaluation is critical.

Why evaluating your mentoring scheme is so important:

  • It provides a sense of where people are before they start the mentoring programme
  • It helps guide you as to whether you managed the pairing of mentors and mentees correctly and anything you could do differently
  • It helps you focus on what motivates people to do schemes and how that may compare with what they actually got from the scheme – which could be more than they anticipated, or brought in new things they hadn’t considered
  • Helps focus both mentor and mentee and to have that discussion about goals
  • At the end, it helps them both see what they achieved over time and learn something about themselves
  • It’s motivating for mentors to see what was achieved, to motivate them and others, to continue volunteering their time
  • And it helps you understand and better communicate with people considering joining, about the benefits of doing so
  • …As well as being able to communicate more powerfully to those that fund, about why it should continue

How to evaluate your schemes

Survey

It’s good to have a basic, short survey that asks about key things. If you do this digitally, you can capture information across multiple people, which helps you understand requirements. But it also captures how each individual wants to benefit from the programme. Such surveys can include questions such as around the quality of the relationship, of support that the mentor receives, of whether the programme supports objectives well and so forth.

Getting people to participate in evaluations was, according to our research, challenging for many administrators. Using some of the bullets above can help you point out the benefits of them participating for themselves, but also to help the scheme improve for future participants. Capturing these helps provide some quantitative numbers about the scheme.

Capturing narratives

Either within your survey or separately, you want to capture not only numbers about the success of the scheme, but also narratives from participants, such as, “My mentor transformed my thinking about my career move.” Or, “I feel more confident on how to move forward now.” These kinds of statements provide the qualitative angle and highlight the emotional, human benefit of taking part. Such quotes are also useful for you to use when trying to get new people to take part in the scheme, so they can see how it might benefit them.

Balancing hard metrics and narratives

It’s about balancing the numbers that you get from the survey, with the narratives and quotes that you get from participants, that together demonstrate value. Do them both – and capture it at the beginning and end of the scheme and you will gain some valuable insights for yourselves, as well as key information that points to the value of your scheme and helps you promote it to new participants.


Note from the sfG MentorNet team

Many thanks to Judie for her blog. It’s great to hear from her experience and research in the area. One thing we wanted to highlight is that with sfG MentorNet you can indeed run surveys and evaluations. Gain insight into programme effectiveness, by creating and running online surveys. Define different questions and answer types and push surveys out to groups of users, such as all mentors, or all mentees in a specific sub-programme. You can evaluate a programme by running surveys at specific points, such as at the start, middle and end and track the change in answers throughout.

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