Supporting staff career development – new software for mentoring scheme

mentoring tablet imageThe University has recently bought a software package (SUMAC) that enables online matching of mentors with mentees.

Supporting career development and transformative change using mentoring is part of the new People Strategy (2016–2020).  It helps to develop research, academic and professional capabilities. It also addresses requests for more career development support, as indicated in recent staff surveys and supports Athena Swan development. Mentoring is a great opportunity to build personal networks and to get involved in sharing knowledge across the University.

Whilst there is no single definition of mentoring, it is broadly a supportive relationship where a senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned to act as an adviser or guide to a junior or less experienced colleague (the mentee).

Whilst pockets of interest across the University are often valued by those using them, the People Strategy includes an aim to create an institution-wide coaching and mentoring culture. Currently, some staff mentoring is facilitated through a number of informal arrangements across different specialist groups using local knowledge and networks. However, staff report that paper-based systems can be time-consuming, bureaucratic and create a delay in making matches.

To improve this system, the University has recently bought SUMAC, a web-based database system. The software package captures applicants’ details via an online form submission, suggests potential matches to scheme administrators, maintains records of all scheme members, and all partnerships. All data is held on a web-server which has appropriate security measures to ensure that data is safe and secure. Once registered, scheme members are able to log in to review and edit their own profiles. The software offers a high degree of flexibility to accommodate different types of mentoring needs, and by automating some key administrative processes, it has the potential for efficient scheme administration.

Initially, mentors are needed to sign up to build a personal profile using the software. Everyone has skills and experience in the workplace that others may benefit from and the software is straightforward to use to help identify and capture them.

Lyuda Wade, Information Systems, has recently benefited from mentoring and commented that: ‘The discussions during mentoring sessions allowed me to reflect on my work experiences and see things through other people’s eyes, understanding their motivation.

‘My mentor enabled me to channel the frustration with my perceived lack of career progress into further development and learning. She asked a lot of questions before making any recommendations. This questioning had helped to refine my thought process, and led me to a course of actions that boosted my professional development, personal growth and has resulted in long-awaited career progression.’

The greater your experience, the greater the potential for you to support a broader range of mentees – and the matching process will be managed to ensure that you are not overwhelmed with multiple requests. Matches will usually be for a period of twelve months. Mentors generally get as much from the relationship as mentees as it’s a great opportunity to reflect, share experience, and be rewarded by seeing others develop – so it’s great professional practice.

Once there is a bank of potential mentors, the opportunity to be mentored will be offered to targeted groups initially so that demand can be monitored.

If you would like to learn more or have any questions please email or contact Tracy Elliott, Learning and Development Adviser, Human Resources (x3256).


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