D2N2 recognises that client expectations are changing and as a result business advisory services are moving towards a coaching / mentoring model, rather than solely providing information and advice. As a result, they wished to develop the skills of Business Advisors and assure the organisation that they had the capability to work with clients in this way by enabling them to gain the Level 3 Award in Enterprise Mentoring qualification.
Excellence Squared were approached to support the development of 10 Business Advisors, through a workshop, coaching and assessment process.
Purpose of the programme
- To upskill the advisory staff to use a coaching/mentoring approach
- To offer a high-quality advisory service to businesses
- To add greater value to the support for businesses
- To confirm capability of the Business Advisors
- To keep staff challenged and motivated.
What the qualification contains
The Level 3 Award in Enterprise Mentoring qualification covers all aspects of a Business Advisors’ role, both the approach taken with clients, as well as the technical knowledge needed to guide and support businesses within the D2N2 region.
On the skills side this included:
- Coaching and mentoring skills,
- Communication skills,
- The importance of continued personal development,
- What is needed to be successful in business,
- Understanding the competing demands for business entrepreneurs.
The technical knowledge this included:
- Understanding finance
- Basic marketing and sales techniques needed by an entrepreneur
- What makes for good customer service.
What activity took place and why
In order to start the programme with everyone clear about their developing roles and the qualification, a one-day Coaching and Mentoring group workshop was delivered. This was a very practical and interactive workshop, giving the Business Advisors knowledge and frameworks to use for coaching / mentoring and time to put this into practice with colleagues. This workshop meant all Business Advisors were starting on a level playing field and understood the expectation of D2N2 and the requirements of the qualification.
Everyone said how valuable this workshop was, how they particularly liked the practical side of the workshop, interaction and the opportunity to connect with colleagues, who they don’t normally have opportunity to meet.
‘Very thought provoking – and a great opportunity to reflect on what I am doing and how I can improve.’
‘I have more practical tools to aid my discussions with clients.’
The workshop was followed by a personal induction to the qualification with an Excellence Squared Assessor. Some of which were carried out by Skype and others face to face, depending on the location of Excellence Squared Assessor and Business Advisor. The purpose of these initial meetings was to ensure a good working relationship could be established, along with understanding the Business Advisors current role and the next steps to work towards the qualification.
Step two was the completion of the Business Adviser’s own Self Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ) against the skills and knowledge required by the SFEDI Award. All learners considered this to be of great value and helped them to reflect on their current strengths and areas for development. Following the completion of the SEQ, a meeting took place between the Business Advisor and Excellence Squared Assessor with the SEQ used as the basis for discussion, to review strengths and any development needs. These development needs were added to their ongoing Continuous Professional Development (CPD) log, in order to help track progress and impact.
These discussions were reflective and sometimes challenging for the Business Advisors, testing out their knowledge and asking for evidence of where they had used this knowledge with clients. This approach helped to confirm capability and experience. Where the discussions highlighted knowledge gaps, the Excellence Squared Assessor was able to share their knowledge or signpost to further sources of information.
The next steps for the Business Advisor was to arrange a meeting with a suitable client (either existing or new) where the Excellence Squared Assessor would be able to observe the knowledge, interaction and communication in a live situation. This was an opportunity for the Business Advisor to show the depth of their technical knowledge for the benefit of the client and their ability to using coaching skills to build trusting relationships quickly and credibly both as the Business Advisor and for the D2N2 service.
Following the observation, the Business Advisor was given immediate feedback on their strengths and any further areas for development. Common development themes highlighted through the observations were:
- The importance of agreeing an agenda either before or at the start of the meeting to help bring more structure and understanding of the desired outcomes for the meeting by both parties
- The amount of ‘giving clients the solution’, rather than the use of open questions to help the client think the problem through and then find their own solution, thereby giving greater ownership going forward
- The suitability of meeting locations and the need to consider confidentiality and noise levels
- Ensuring client understood the mentor mentee relationship by using a coaching agreement.
Business Advisors all said they found the feedback given very positive and thought provoking for helping them further develop their approach to the provision of business advice.
The final stage was a further interaction to review:
- The CPD completed during the programme
- How the CPD had impacted on the SEQ skills rating
- Documentary evidence provided to evidence capability and support the qualification
- Agree any further CPD.
The Excellence Squared Assessor completed a final feedback report confirming the achievement and capability of the Business Advisor.
Impact on individuals
Business Advisors feedback included:
I gained a clear process in which to mentor clients in a very structured and considered way.
I have learned how to structure my interactions with business clients, helping them to progress their business growth plans, identify and overcome barriers, and to formulate an achievable vision for the future.
The qualification has improved my communication skills and given me the confidence to adopt varying levels of a mentoring framework with my clients.
It was good to refresh my thinking.
My Excellence Squared Assessor was equal with praise and supported me through each stage of the process.
Being able to review how meetings are conducted with a 3rd party was very beneficial – it has given me the opportunity to refine my approach to client meetings.
Impact on D2N2
‘The support of Excellence Squared has assisted D2N2 to really develop our coaching and mentoring approach with clients and develop Adviser skills in this area. The impact has been on staff effectiveness, as evidenced through positive client feedback and on their personal motivation to deliver an excellent service.’