Human Resources Division

Guidelines on mentoring for newly appointed staff

Rationale

Mentoring is a means of providing structured support to a member of staff in the early stages of a new appointment. It is particularly relevant for members of staff in academic, academic related or contract reseach posts.

Some members of staff taking up new appointments may, on the face of it, already appear to be familiar with the University either because they are Cambridge graduates or have previously held an appointment in a College or a research group. However, many aspects of University and College life and work may still be unclear to them. For new staff coming to Cambridge for the first time, the problems are more obvious and more emphasised.

For this reason, rather than being left to ‘find their own feet’, which may in reality mean being left to ‘sink or swim’, newly appointed staff wish to be able to find help (or be offered it) as and when they need it, within a recognised and accepted framework. This need not be an elaborate or rigid mechanism and may draw on various sources of support.

The Personal and Professional Development team in the Human Resources Division offer support for newly-appointed members of staff by offering Induction Online and a Welcome Event.

Principles

Mentoring is the process whereby an experienced staff member offers support to someone in the early stages of a new appointment, particularly during the probationary period.

The role of mentor is as guide and support, possibly a friend and confidante, as well as source of information. It is envisaged that the need for a mentor will diminish as time goes by and will disappear completely as the new member of staff develops his or her own networks of friends and contacts. Mentors need to be readily accessible and prepared to offer help as need arises.

Mentoring takes place alongside appraisal and the assessment of performance in relation to reappointment or confirmation of satisfactory completion of probation. It is, however, a separate process. Appraisal is intended to be a supportive and creative review of progress and an appraiser might well find him or herself acting in an advisory role during or after an appraisal discussion. However, it is not intended that an appraiser takes on a longer-term advisory role or has an additional support function.

The following is an example of how this works in practice:

Diagram demonstrating the mentoring process.

Designating a mentor is the responsibility of the Head of Department or other institution, or the Chairman of the Faculty Board, as appropriate, and is part of the general process of induction of a new member of staff into the institution. Some thought needs to be given to ‘matching’ mentors to new members of staff appropriately. For contract research staff if might be more appropriate for the principal investigator of a project to designate a mentor, possibly in conjunction with the Head of Department.

All new members of staff should be informed on appointment that they can expect to have a mentor. An existing member of staff making a transition between posts, for example College Teaching Officer or contract research worker to University Teaching Officer, should also be given a mentor. Someone passing through a number of different roles within the University might have a mentor on more than one occasion. This is because people at different stages of their career may require different supporting information and advice, especially when they are taking on new and different types of appointment.

It is important to avoid making the mentor scheme an unwieldy or bureaucratic system and it is essential that newly appointed members of staff are introduced to their mentor at the earliest opportunity after appointment. The mentor scheme complements local induction procedures, centrally provided induction and staff development and appraisal. In this way members of staff should be assured that they will receive all the necessary advice and support they require in the early stages of their new appointments.

Example of possible functions of a mentor for an academic appointment

A: Information provision

  1. About the University, its structure and arrangements and key contacts.
  2. About University facilities (eg Centre for Personal and Professional Development, the UL, Computing Service, Language Centre, CARET etc).
  3. About the Department/Faculty, its organisation and arrangements; as regards teaching, research and administration.

B. Advice

  1. About achieving a balance between teaching, research and other commitments in the Department of Faculty.
  2. About developing networks and contacts.
  3. About involvement with other bodies, including Colleges.
  4. About seeking research funding and the projection of research.

Example of possible functions of a mentor for an academic-related appointment

A: Information provision

  1. About the University, its structure and arrangements and key contacts.
  2. About University facilities (eg Centre for Personal and Professional Development, other central services, facilities within the newly appointed staff member's own institution).
  3. About the institution, its organisation and arrangements.

B: Advice

  1. About achieving a balance between different duties and commitments and about setting priorities.
  2. About developing networks and contacts.
  3. About involvement with other bodies, including Colleges, internal University groups and professional associations.