Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA)
A mentoring initiative led by the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA)
The Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA) is an initiative led by the industry employer group Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA), specifically tasked with helping employers to increase female workforce participation in the resources, allied and related construction sectors.
Mentoring was identified early, as a way to attract women to the sector and support them to stay, and AWRA were provided Australian Government funding to develop a mentoring program.
But the nature of the resources sector created significant barriers to delivering an effective program. Resources jobs are often in extremely remote locations, making face-to-face mentoring impossible for many, and complex roster systems make connecting mentoring partners unusually difficult.
AWRA decided to pursue e-mentoring, an approach that had yet to be implemented on a large scale in Australia. Art of Mentoring (AoM) was approached to assist with the program.
A virtual mentoring program was developed and rolled out in early 2013. The first phase of this program ran from February 2013 to May 2014 and included 100 mentoring pairs. Learnings from this experience then informed program design for a second phase, which concludes mid-2018.
Each mentoring cohort ran for 9-months in both the first and second phases, and communication between mentors and mentees was via telephone, Skype and email.
The following summarises the key elements of the program and how these elements developed through experience.
Online mentoring platform for efficient program management
An online mentoring platform was employed to enable efficient program management. The platform provided:
· the algorithm for computer-generated mentor/mentee matching
· a central platform for participant applications and communications
· an online portal for mentoring resource materials
In both phases, program managers could override the matching program with qualitative information known about the applicant. After a number of mismatches in phase one, the matching algorithm was improved in phase two to provide better matches.
Cohorts for a shared experience
Rather than offering a self-serve model where a single mentee searches for a mentor online, the program was structured in cohorts to allow participants (mentees in particular) to feel connected to a wider group and build connections with other participants.
A Growing Arsenal of Training Tools
Screening Video: The screening video was added in phase two, after an unacceptable mentee drop-out rate in phase one caused concern that mentees did not understand what they were getting into. A 20-minute video outlining program expectations was made compulsory viewing for all mentees before final admission. The drop-out rate halved in phase two.
Webinars: Live webinars conducted by AoM were the primary training tool in phase one, and continued in phase two. Separate training webinars were conducted for mentors and mentees at the outset of the program, again at 3 months by AoM and (in phase two only) at the conclusion of the program.
Multimedia online training modules: Time-limited webinars proved too restrictive to ensure completely effective training. A suite of multimedia online training sessions from AoM was introduced in phase two. Material included video demonstrations of key mentoring skills, mentor and mentee interviews and downloadable mentoring tools.
Participants were asked to provide evaluation immediately after their matching, after 3 months and at the conclusion of the program. In phase two an extra evaluation was added, one year after commencing the program.
RESULTS & KEY LEARNINGS
The AWRA e-Mentoring Program has been running for over four years and has worked with over 400 mentors and mentees. The AMMA and the Australian Government consider the program a success and the program was used as a case study in a presentation to the 2015 Global Summit of Women.
During this period, there has been a small improvement in female participation in the mining sector (up from 15.7% in 2014, to 16.1% in 2017). Perhaps more important has been the increase in female presence in senior ranks. In 2014, 26.1% of key management personnel were women, by 2017 it was 29.7%.
The program also delivered some exciting learnings about the potential of virtual mentoring.
Virtual Mentoring Works
Properly managed, a virtual mentoring program can be just as effective as face-to-face. Program evaluation scores were found to be very similar to those you would expect from a well-run, traditional program:
· 95% of participants said they had achieved the goals they set for themselves
· 17% of mentees rated the experience as “one of the best things I have done”
· 87% of mentees said they would stay in contact with the mentors
Virtual Mentoring Opens New Opportunities
The ability of virtual mentoring to provide access to mentoring from across a very broad geographic base proved valuable both at an association and individual level.
“The real value of the e-Mentoring program is that each mentee has access to the most appropriate mentor from a variety of levels in the industry anywhere in the country.” Tara Diamond, AMMA Executive Director of Industry
“What’s great is that I wasn’t just limited to mentors in WA; there’s a whole nation involved across different resource related sectors. There is no way I would have connected with Scott if it wasn’t for this program.” Shauna Martin, Mentee
“Because I travel a lot I always felt I couldn’t make a commitment to a mentee when I wasn’t actually going to be physically present. So the fact that (this program) is based online…made it easy to manage my travel and make a commitment to others.” Michele Tracey, Mentor
Virtual Mentoring Requires Careful Administration
Because of the nature of virtual relationships, mentoring pairs require greater follow-up than in a face-to-face program. Program managers play a key role in building the momentum of the mentoring relationship.
Quality Training Materials are Key
High quality training materials must be developed or sourced to ensure that participants have the skills needed for a successful relationship. The addition of detailed multi-media online training modules in phase two proved more effective than reliance solely on webinars.
Art of Mentoring can help any organisation launch, run or evaluate a mentoring program. For more information please contact us.