We have a number of Client Testimonials for the revised matrix Standard. To read them and see how the Standard has helped other organisations, just click on the name of the organisation. To hide the testimonial, click the organisation name again.
“A joint matrix Standard and Investors in People Assessment – Good Business Sense!”
Over recent months emqc have received a growing number of booking forms from organisations seeking a joint matrix Standard and Investors in People Standard assessment. Organisations are increasingly seeing the business benefits, as well as economies of scale, of being assessed against the two Standards in parallel.
The following testimonial from Your Consortium Ltd provides an interesting insight into the planning stages of a joint matrix Standard and Investors in People assessment as well as a viewpoint on the assessment approach and the potential added value of such an assessment.
Sue Vasey, the Chief Executive of Your Consortium, explains the approach taken by her business in the spring of 2012 to achieve both national quality Standards:
Tell us about Your Consortium and its mission..
“Your Consortium is a not for profit company, limited by guarantee offering social businesses (its members) funding and contracting opportunities, project and contract management services, capacity building activities and strategic influence.
Our mission statement seeks to ‘strengthen local communities by empowering voluntary and community organisations to achieve their rightful place as sustainable and high quality social businesses’.
At the heart of all our practices are quality approaches that ensure we achieve the best possible outcomes for our staff and partnership.”
Why the matrix Standard and Investors and People Standard?
“The two Standards are at the core of our business. The matrix Standard ensures we remain client centred and empowers our members to achieve their goals. Whilst the Investors in People Standard ensures our end to end business performance is maximised by our workforce.
At times of economic uncertainty maintaining the two Standards has been a priority investment. We see both frameworks as critical to our business success and of course to help position us for income streams.”
What motivated you to consider a joint assessment approach?
“Quite simply because it makes good business sense:
· Firstly we want and need both quality Standards. Both matrix and Investors in People send out a message to staff, clients, partners and funders that we are a quality organisation.
· Secondly the two Standards are so closely aligned that for us to separate them is actually harder!”
How do you go about the planning process for a joint assessment?
“Well our starting point was the matrix Standard. The matrix Standard is such a solid foundation with its four key themes acting as a framework upon which to build our successes internally and externally.
By starting upon Element 1 (Leadership and Management) the synergy with Investors in People is so transparent. This element links to Investors indicators including Business planning and strategy developments. Making the linkages is not at all difficult. Often the same evidence is appropriate to the two frameworks.
Organisations should also remember that the “plan, do, review” cycle is the mantra running through both Standards.
On a practical note, we didn’t worry about the day to day mechanics of evidence gathering. Instead we have a relationship with our assessor that is based upon trust. We know he will be objective, developmental and motivational. We let him do all the hard work of linking evidence against the two frameworks!”
What challenges does the onsite activity bring?
“Planning for the actual on site activity is also much more straightforward than you might at first think. Of course the assessor wants to interview managers, delivery staff, clients and partners but this is the case for either Standard. So, the one interview acts as the platform for gathering evidence against two frameworks. Staff felt just as supported as they would have for the one Standard.”
What advice would you give to an organisation that is considering a matrix Standard and Investors in People assessment?
“Firstly I would look at the time frames for the two quality marks. If they are likely to be taking place within twelve months of one another I would absolutely explore an assessment ‘window’ for the two. Aligning quality approaches brings with it organisational benefits. The sum of the parts of the two Standards outweighs two individual reviews. Also from my experience the approach is more cost effective both in real terms and also in minimum service disruption.”
What was the outcome of the assessment?
“We were thrilled to be told by our Assessor that we met the two Standards. The verbal feedback was fantastic and really helped us identify some areas for continued improvement and growth. A week later we received a very detailed narrative report that showed the organisational findings against the two frameworks.
The flexibility of the two Standards is a real asset to an organisation. They are non prescriptive which means you can apply the framework across a range of services.
All in all our experience was such a success that we are now proactively supporting the Your Consortium membership to consider a joint assessment approach. This consistent approach will help us identify future themes for development and help ensure consistency of approach as well as help drive capacity building.”
Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership
An Internal Champions Testimonial
“The whole Internal Champion experience has been incredibly valuable to our organisational development …. The programme offers good value for money and is an investment that is really making a difference to how we manage the planning, delivery and review of our IAG services”.
In the summer of 2012 emqc broadened its matrix Standard portfolio with the launch of an Internal Champion Programme.
The matrix Internal Champion Programme is an opportunity for organisations working with the matrix Standard to train one or more of their own employees to understand how best to apply the Standard within their workplace.
Anyone who contributes to the aims and objectives of the organisation can be trained to understand and carry out the Internal Champion role.
At the core of the training of Internal Champion is the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised SFEDI qualification.
Diane Sproson (Lead Operational Manager) from Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership was a participant on the first Internal Champion training programme. She was also the first colleague to achieve the SFEDI Level 5 Certificate in Understanding and Participating in the matrix Standard Assessment Process and Practice.
In the following testimonial, Diane explains her expectations and objectives before commencing the programme and the personal and business benefits and impact of the Internal Champion Programme.
“Before committing to the Internal Champion Programme I was keen to acquire an indepth insight into maximising the use of the matrix Standard within an all age IAG service and all our contracts for GMCP. Our whole organisation Accreditation Review was looming and given that I was to play a strategic role in the preparation for assessment I needed to understand how best to apply the framework. The Internal Champion programme was a perfect solution.”
In reflecting upon her Internal Champion journey, Diane was keen to highlight the following key stages:
- Pre course Work – “This preparatory homework really helped set the scene and was really thought provoking. The activity was a matrix assessment case study and whilst challenging really did help me prepare for the two days training.”
- The training programme – “This is the core workshop and it was well delivered by an excellent trainer. The activities were very practical and ensured that all delegates developed a deeper understanding of the Standard and the assessment process and practice. We explored the criteria in depth and the types of evidence that can be used to illustrate outcomes.”
- The contribution to our own on site assessment -“Another advantage of the programme is that the Internal Champion is assigned a Mentoring Assessor. This role is a Registered matrix Assessor who is appointed by emqc to manage the matrix assessment process using Internal Champions. They are approved to undertake such a role and are responsible for managing the Internal Champion(s), the assessment, and ultimately deciding whether or not the organisation meets or continues to meet the matrix Standard.”
“My mentoring assessor was fantastic to work with. We explored and jointly agreed the role I would play throughout the assessment. I interviewed staff and clients and had the opportunity to shadow the mentoring assessor to explore differing interviewing styles and ways of evidence gathering.”
“This aspect was both enjoyable and beneficial enabling me to explore differing aspects of my organisation from a very different viewpoint and perspective.”
- Post assessment. When reflecting upon the impact of the Internal Champion Programme Diane was particularly effusive about the post-assessment impact:
“The Internal Champion Programme has enabled me to develop personally providing opportunities to be shadowed and mentored by a registered matrix Assessor and in applying the matrix Standard within our company as an improvement tool. I also have gained a SFEDI level five qualification.”
“Organisationally GMCP has really benefitted from the training. The programme acted as a catalyst to forming an internal quality group which has at its core the matrix standard and Investors in People as frameworks to support improvement activities.”
“The training has also resulted in enabling me to deeply embed quality improvement practices across a multi site organisation with confidence and keeping continuous quality improvement firmly on the radar.”
“From my perspective the whole Internal Champions experience has been incredibly valuable to our organisational development and also my own CPD. The programme offers good value for money and is an investment that is really making a difference to how we plan, deliver, and review our IAG services.”
The University of Salford Careers and Employability
Our thanks to Donna Berwick, the Skills and Recognition Manager with the University of Salford Careers and Employability for explaining their matrix Standard journey.
Donna’s comments relating to the effective use of the self assessment tool and the importance of the three year accreditation review cycle will be particularly interesting for those just beginning/ embarking upon their matrix journey.
The University of Salford Careers and Employability is part of the wider Student Life Directorate. The service met the matrix Standard in March 2012. The service works closely with the academic establishment to fully embed careers and employability within the curriculum of the 3 colleges and 10 schools across the University.
Information advice and guidance services are delivered by 30 staff and the service is ideally situated in the same building with the student union and other student support services.
Salford’s matrix Standard story offers some helpful hints for other Higher Education Institutions planning an Initial Assessment or Accreditation Review….
“The starting point for our matrix Standard activity was to use the self assessment toolkit on the matrix Standard website. This tool was really useful as a gap analysis activity. With the support of a Registered matrix Advisor we were able to see what improvements we wanted to make and explore how best to achieve our intended results within a defined timeframe. Perhaps not surprisingly the development areas were related to evaluation and in particular outcome based evaluation practices."
“As a service we embraced the matrix Standard as a business improvement tool and the delivery staff really liked the simple but effective ‘plan, do review’ cycle. For us this approach provided a clear and effective way of shaping our annual service wide activities into effective business planning, service delivery and then review, and evaluative practices shaping future planning”.
When considering the impact of the matrix Standard assessment Donna highlighted the following key benefits:
“The matrix Standard helped us to consolidate quality assurance processes and identify quality improvements."
“The matrix Standard encouraged us to review and reflect upon our provision especially in regard to how we communicate and deliver services to our students, partners and stakeholders. This in turn helped us to develop ways of articulating our offer more clearly."
“The matrix Standard provided us with the opportunity to identify our individual inputs into the service and created a sense of ownership and job satisfaction."
“And finally it motivated all teams to continue to embrace improvement areas and celebrate the endorsement of the good recognised in the assessor’s report."
On site assessment against the matrix Standard are designed to be supportive and developmental, and Donna also talked about how this was reflected in Salford’s three day long assessment.
“The assessor was able to drill down and capture evidence in a motivational manner. The main message to stress to my colleagues across the HE sector is the approach taken by our Service. We saw the assessment as an opportunity for us to promote and celebrate our practices as well as reflect upon our strengths and ways of striving for excellence”.
Reflecting upon the matrix accreditation review cycle Donna wished to highlight the business benefits of maintaining accreditation every three years.
“For the University of Salford, good practice would now be to have our Careers and Employability service reviewed every three years as this ensures the service evolves and develops in line with the natural life span of the accreditation. We have now achieved the national quality standard for our service and are focused upon continuing to ensure we meet the benchmark”.
The matrix Standard – A Training Provider Perspective
“The improvements made to outcome based evaluation practices have resulted in the management team having increased confidence in tendering for employability provision”
In the current economic climate, there is a growing need to be able to demonstrate to funders and commissioners of services that you provide high quality impact solutions. Increasingly training providers are being asked to demonstrate a return on the investment. The following testimonial is from a training provider in the south east of England who has effectively used the matrix Standard as their preferred benchmarking and outcome based framework. Six months after working with the matrix Standard the organisation are reaping business benefits.
Based in Eastbourne, Baldwin Training Centre (BTC) focuses training provision on being responsive to the needs of the labour market. A rich vocational offer includes adult social care apprenticeship frameworks and diplomas, customer service, retail and management qualifications. Most recently the organisation has responded to demand from the employer base and developed an Employability programme to help long term unemployed adults gain much needed work experience and employment.
Lynette Baldwin the Managing Director explains her matrix Standard journey:
“Our matrix Standard journey was in two parts. At the Initial Assessment we were able to tell and show the assessor how information advice and guidance activities were deeply embedded across all our provision. Our Employability Skills activity was gathering momentum which meant that we had feedback from employers, Jobcentre Plus and clients that supported the difference we were making to people’s job readiness.”
“Nonetheless we still had some work to do to fully meet all criteria in the Standard. In particular we saw a need to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of client outcomes. Our Assessor summarised it so well in saying that our evaluation practices were not capturing the whole person impact particularly in relation to changes in clients’ behaviours and attitudes.”
“The Assessor was very supportive and our initial report gave us the information and guidance we needed not just to achieve the matrix Standard but more importantly the desire to embrace it. We could really see how relevant the Standard was when used as a Quality Improvement tool.”
“A whole organisation approach to defining and measuring outcomes was developed and implemented. Within weeks we introduced some very straightforward check and balance points in the client’s journey to record measurable impact.”
“The evaluation activity was a complete revelation. Yes, we knew individuals were benefiting from the service we delivered but we had underestimated the positive impact we were having on learners’ lives.”
“Three months later, we have data that shows improvements to job readiness, communication skills, confidence and self esteem and health and well being. This impact data has been able to be used to promote our business.”
“The comprehensive data we are now able to produce shows how we are meeting clearly defined outcomes which are in line with national priorities and has helped us to secure an increased adult skills contract which more than covers the cost of the matrix Standard.”
“Until the matrix Standard assessment we hadn’t maximized the data we captured on our services. We now have an evidence base which shows brokers, funders and most importantly future clients how we are making a difference to helping individuals realise their goals.’’
Lynette offered the following advice for other training providers considering the matrix Standard:
“Don’t delay in starting your matrix Standard journey. It is a valuable tool which can only improve the service you deliver. We are currently in very challenging times but after getting my head around outcome based planning as defined within the matrix Standard I quickly saw how it fits in with wider quality marks and inspection frameworks such as the new Ofsted Inspection Framework.”
“The matrix Standard is challenging but then so is anything that is worth achieving.”
University of Hull Careers Service
A Registered matrix Practitioner and Head of Service Viewpoint on the matrix Standard
Registered matrix Adviser:
The opportunity to support a Higher Education Institution and explore how best to utilise the matrix Standard as a business improvement tool is one I embrace. The University of Hull’s Careers Service provided such an opportunity at the beginning of 2012.
As the engaged adviser I was given a clear role by the Director of the Careers Service. The focus of my input was to be the organisation’s “critical friend”.
As with most University Careers services, at the University of Hull there is an increased emphasis on effectively positioning advice and guidance services as a key driver in realising the Employability agenda. This positioning was at the core of the advice activity.
Much of the focus of the adviser support centred on outcome based planning and evaluation. My energies were focused upon exploring how staff could demonstrate through “tell” and “show” that their service was aligned to the wider Employability Strategy and Institutional Strategic Plan.
By looking at the Careers Service practices and approaches I was able to use the “so what” question to look at results and impact. Of course this challenge was always done with encouragement and through the effective use of my own careers guidance challenging skills!
Through achieving a good understanding of the wider University strategic goals and the importance of the Employability and Widening Participation agendas within the Institution I was able to offer advice and encouragement to the Director as she slightly realigned some information, advice and guidance activities to firmly embed expected outcomes for clients across projects.
The table below illustrates the Careers Service approach with the expected outcomes of the Hull Graduate at the very heart of the matter.
My support and direction were used to help staff delivering the careers advice achieve a more consistent outcome based approach to interview contracting and action planning.
Support was also sought in revisiting the review cycle and suggesting improvements, to what was already a robust feedback loop. The increased emphasis was to ensure impact on expected outcomes could be evidenced more explicitly.
At all times our aim was for me to provide support to improve the service rather than to prepare for assessment. I was focused upon being motivational and developmental. Experience tells me that by using the matrix Standard as a framework to navigate improvement areas a successful assessment outcome will naturally follow.
The Director and her staff were effusive in commenting upon the external support provided. One adviser explained:
“This whole improvement activity has been of immense value. As staff delivering the careers advice service we have been challenged to look at the impact of our service and how we are contributing to the wider university key performance indicators. We are now much more aware of how and when we are adding value to University’s strategic objectives”.
In supporting the Careers Service I made a full commitment to support the organisation from advice through to assessment and beyond. The pre assessment activity was incredibly interesting and of course hearing the staff’s confidence and enthusiasm post assessment was massively rewarding. As to the future, the Careers Service is determined to use the matrix Standard as a framework for wider Student Service activities to ensure that outcome based financial, well-being and immigration support are at the core of the Hull Graduate journey and approach.
Director of Service:
1. Reflecting upon your matrix Standard journey what impact has the Standard had upon your organisation?
“The preparation for and undertaking of the assessment was both a huge challenge and unquestionably, an empowering experience. This applied to individual staff as well as engaging the team in working collectively to a common goal. The Standard also provided a platform in which to promote the quality of our services to other university staff, senior management, internal and external partners and of course, our students and graduates.
All staff worked exceptionally hard in preparing and delivery on the Standard which has resulted in a strengthened team spirit. Communication channels have never been better”
2. How developmental and motivational did you find the assessment framework and process?
“The process of the matrix Standard is a natural developmental and motivational tool and can certainly enhance the fixed annual cycle of reflective and quality procedure undertaken as a required by most organisations. The planning, doing and reviewing is a cycle that the University of Hull Careers Service had embraced for the last few years and seemed to fit well with our existing structure.
We already had a culture of celebrating individual and team success. However, the matrix Standard provided the impetus to give even more time to the reflection stage and particularly on the changes we had introduced under-pinned by user feedback. In this instance, it was extremely motivational for staff to see the distance travelled from previous years. For example, in 3 years careers service users had increased from 5,000 to over 14,000 and the wealth of qualitative data had also significantly increased. Case studies and specific areas of improvements had been recorded and acted upon where appropriate.
It was also rewarding to see that clear leadership was valued by the team as was the commitment to professional development. All members of staff were engaged in some form of professional development from NVQs in advice and guidance of front line staff to Master Degrees by the Careers Advisers and leadership programmes of the management team, all of which was highlighted as good practice during the matrix Standard journey”.
3. What approach did you take in preparing for your assessment?
“Over the last 3 years as the Director at Hull University Careers Service, I have been putting in place measures of evaluation against all areas of service delivery. Key staff in the Department had been pivotal in taking this forward such as the Administrator and Information Officer. During this time, our new Vice Chancellor launched a major consultation with all university staff with the aim of renewing and redesigning of a university-wide strategic plan. All staff were actively encouraged to participate and to provide feedback.
Armed with a new strategic plan, I was able to ensure that a new Careers Service vision was created with subsequent mission, aims and objectives that directly related to this over-arching plan.
All Careers Service staff took part in developing further service objectives, which included the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ approach to service delivery and the impact we wanted to achieve. The process involved liaising with our academic colleagues, our employer partners and surveying our students and graduates.
The use of an external matrix Advisor was an invaluable resource. The Advisor supported and challenged us to ensure that our outcome based practices were sufficiently robust.
Pooling all this information against the matrix Standard elements and 27 criteria suddenly made us realise the extent to which we had consulted with our users in making quality improvements and how the recording of user feedback and acting on the feedback had been instrumental in moving the service forward, and in doing so had become more accountable and transparent.
We became more focused upon making our outcomes and impacts more explicit. Improvements were identified against the back-drop of a wealth of qualitative (e.g. survey monkey feedback) and quantitative information (structured questionnaires issued at the same time of DLHE questionnaires). Improvement ideas were acted upon more swiftly as part of our commitment to responsiveness and strengthening further the improvement loop.
The improvements of service delivery were the focus of operations meetings, annual planning events and the focus of our marketing strategies and equality and diversity objectives.
Staff became skilled in explaining the relevance of these improvements in their work and could articulate how they had impacted on the success of the service in terms of developing activities to assist students and graduates to increase their knowledge and skills”.
4. How would you summarise your matrix Standard experience?
“The whole team embraced the process, got behind it, and got excited about the opportunity to showcase the quality improvements and innovations we had been putting in place over the last few years.
Preparing and delivering on the assessment had such a positive impact on the team and they realised that everyone’s role was important in delivering a successful result.
All in all our matrix Standard journey was a hugely challenging experience but one that brought immediate results to the Careers Service, Student Services and to the wider University”.
Durham County Council Adult Learning and Skills Service
“We have already seen huge benefits from using the matrix Standard as our preferred business improvement tool. A successful external assessment of our service was the icing on the cake!”
The bringing together of two business areas and over thirty staff into a new Employability team to meet challenging financial and engagement targets presented managers with a real challenge. Using the matrix Standard as the framework to effectively manage the change has helped achieve a more outcome focused service.
Mick Towers (Quality Review Officer) explains the task at hand:
“In August 2011, an internal restructuring of services brought together our Lifelong Learning and WorkAble Solutions teams into a new Employability business unit that aims to develop employability skills and increase service outcomes.”
“The challenge came at a time when we were hearing more about the matrix Standard through regional roadshows and emqc’s marketing and promotional activities.”
“We were drawn to the increased breadth of the Standard’s purpose and in particular to the ‘life goals’ as well as the emphasis upon showing how our service is making a difference.”
"Over a four month period, we used the four elements of the performance management framework and explored how to:
• Clearly define job roles and purpose and show how each function is intrinsically linked to wider service objectives.
• Achieve greater consistency of approach and delivery to achieve employability outcomes.
• Improve communication to ensure we had one unified team with clearly defined and understood aims and objectives.
• Effectively use our staffing resources and show value for money. "
“Within a month of applying the framework we were seeing service improvement. Staff soon understood what we were aiming to accomplish and appreciated how we would get there. We then focused upon the 'so what' factor to look at the difference the service is making socially and economically, in particular the impact upon service users and the benefits they experienced.”
Four months later and the service are now preparing for their assessment:
“The benefits of our matrix Standard journey have helped with Common Inspection Framework activities and providing outcome focused learner support. It is clear how the two frameworks are aligned and sit hand-in-glove.”
Whilst the team are excited about telling and showing their story and its impact to the Standard Assessor, Mick is also very clear on a message for organisations embarking upon their journey:
“I strongly urge organisations now working with the matrix Standard to focus its application upon how you can improve your service and organisation rather than how to meet the Standard. If you get the former right the latter should be the outcome!”
Durham County Council Adult Learning and Skills Service were successfully accredited to the matrix Standard in February 2012.
University of Roehampton Department of Student Affairs, Employability and Entrepreneurship team
The first week of a new semester is always a challenging time for higher education institutions and their careers services. This January, alongside meeting the demands of students keen to implement career related New Year resolutions, University of Roehampton’s Employability and Entrepreneurship team rose to the challenge of their matrix Standard assessment.
With a six year gap since last meeting the Standard the Employability and Entrepreneurship team had thoroughly prepared for their Assessment against the 2011 version of the matrix Standard.
When approached to be interviewed, Julie Powell (Head of Employability and Entrepreneurship) was only too keen to reflect upon her experience and was full of enthusiasm for the Assessment:
“Our experience of being Assessed against the matrix Standard has been entirely positive. So much so that we are now reflecting upon how best to use the framework as a business improvement tool across the whole Directorate of Student Affairs. In due course we may seek out a directorate wide assessment.”
Reflecting upon the matrix Standard journey provided some interesting insight into the effective use of the Standard as a framework to help progress ‘Lean’ management approaches and drive forward a recently launched Employability strategy. Julie explained:
“The matrix Standard process was very thorough and has provided the Employability and Entrepreneurship team with lots of food for thought. The Assessment provided an opportunity for reflection and planning ahead and we now have some very clear issues to address in the next phase of developing the service. As a management tool, the matrix Standard is very focussed on the end user of the service. For our service the end users are our students and alumni, staff and employers. There is potential for its application across the rest of the department (Student Affairs) and perhaps other areas of the University.”
“The matrix Standard Assessment is ‘outcome’ and ‘impact’ orientated and will help sharpen up activity broadly, particularly that which is strategically important. For us, the framework also ties in well with another piece of work we have begun in the department around the principles of ‘Lean’ management, a set of principles and assumptions about the most effective ways to manage and develop business.”
Examples of outcomes demonstrated by the Employability and Entrepreneurship team included: students highlighting increased awareness of and confidence in being able to demonstrate core Employability skills; greater understanding of the graduate labour market as well as impact data that the service had significantly improved students’ confidence, motivation and understanding of post higher education opportunities and pathways.
As well as achieving the matrix Standard an additional outcome highlighted by Julie has been the value of an independent consultant producing a report that is now very much a live document acting as the service’s improvement plan. Julie explained:
“The Assessor’s report will feature significantly at the next service wide away day where the suggested areas for continuous quality improvement will be reviewed alongside the progress and future plan of our employability strategy.”
Julie was also keen to highlight the links between the matrix Standard journey and the Quality Assurance Agency audit approach:
“One perhaps surprising but really helpful benefit for us has been the whole process of preparing and being scrutinised by the Assessor. The approach taken has really helped inform how our department will prepare for the forthcoming Q.A.A. institutional audit. Although assessment and audit are very different the rigour and supportive nature of the matrix Standard assessment has helped the whole service tune in to a methodology of showing and telling Q.A.A. what we are achieving and the difference we are making in helping the wider organisation realise its vision and mission.”
Reflecting upon cost benefits of the whole Assessment journey prompted the following response:
“matrix Standard Accreditation is a sought after seal of quality and is only given to advice and support services that demonstrate excellence in delivery of guidance and advice to students and who show strong commitment to continuous quality improvement. This achievement is in line with the University of Roehampton’s strategic commitment to supporting all Roehampton students and graduates towards graduate employment.”
“The standard is an excellent diagnostic and development tool and something that has been very beneficial to us following a restructure and the development of new strategy”.
Finally Julie’s line manager Ian Pickup, the Director of Student Affairs - summarised his views on the matrix Assessment and future plans to use the framework:
“This Accreditation is fantastic news and a direct result of the work that the team has done, particularly following a recent restructure and launch of the University’s Employability Strategy. The matrix standard is a very effective diagnostic and development tool and is something that we will consider using across the whole department in the future.”
West Sussex Adult and Community Learning Service – A whole organisation approach to the matrix Standard
At emqc ltd we are often asked about the benefits of seeking the matrix Standard for the whole organisation rather than for a directorate or service. The answer is perhaps illustrated in the following testimonial from a large adult education service that were successfully reaccredited as meeting the matrix Standard in February 2012. Our thanks go to Helen Daborn and her colleagues in answering the following questions.
Reflecting upon your matrix Standard journey and successful Accreditation Review earlier in 2012 what impact has the Standard had upon your organisation?
“Having gained Accreditation in 2008, holding the matrix standard has been important to us. In addition to the ability to cite matrix Standard Accreditation to funders and students it has enabled us to measure our activities and outcomes against tested criteria.
The latest version of the Standard has been very timely for our organization. We had been aligning our service increasingly to optimise outcomes for our students and found that the new version gave us exactly the structure against which to identify our outcome based planning and evaluation.
We were able to recognise that the standard applied to the whole of student support, i.e. the whole service. Thus we commenced on our journey with support from an advisor with a view to ensure that 100 percent of the workforce understood IAG and outcome based approaches.”
Reflecting upon outcome based practices, how helpful did you find this approach?
“We were so pleased to see the outcome based approach as it is the model we have firmly embedded within our delivery. At the core of our planning we have established five intended outcomes that are a raison d’être for service delivery and review. These intended outcomes are the measures that we evaluate our service delivery against. They are:
Healthy lives, Active Mind, Community Activity, Learning for life and Work and Family Learning.
The Standard puts students and in particular their outcomes (both hard and soft) at the forefront of what a service does… which dove-tailed with our own, Ofsted and other funders’ priorities. It has meant that all staff (Managers, Faculty staff, administrative staff, and tutors) have felt that matrix was relevant to them”.
Do you have any other comments on the criteria that make up the standard?
“We found criterion 1.1 and 4.1 particularly helpful as they are asking us to tell and show how our IAG service is measurable and link to wider strategic goals. We are particularly strong at this and have a concept of the “Golden Thread” in which the wider council’s socio-economic factors are cascaded through from council key themes to our published strategic aims and to the aims and objectives of our IAG support service”.
Can you offer any hints and tips for organisations working towards assessment?
“For us there are two key messages:
a) Maximise your support from an advisor. Be open and honest about what your areas of concern are and use the advisor’s knowledge to prepare training etc. for staff. We would also suggest a “readiness visit” is planned well in advance of the real assessment to identify areas for improvement.
b) At the assessment I would be clear on added value that you want from the whole experience. Also, be proud and show-off the fantastic service you have as opposed to being modest. Finally, reflect upon the Assessor’s feedback to form part of your next improvement plan”
Exploring the benefits of the matrix Standard 2011 what are your headline views?
“Just some of the benefits we have reaped since our matrix Standard journey include:
• An impact assessment and a detailed report on which to base further improvements are substantial.
• High quality consultancy from both advisar and assessor. They provided better value for money and knowledgeable expertise than if we had employed a more general consultant.
• Ability to publicise our strong commitment to quality support.
• Ability to access funding streams”
Brighter Sound is a not for profit organisation based in Manchester. The organisation supports personal, creative, entrepreneurial and professional development through music. A golden thread running through Brighter Sound programmes is the need for quality IAG to help young people and adults in the music industry make realistic and relevant learning and work decisions. Managing a portfolio career is increasingly the norm for most people wanting a career in the music industry. The challenge is to help present a diverse network of pathways and learning opportunities to musicians, artists, young people and organisations across the cultural and education sectors.
As an organisation committed to continuous improvement and providing the highest quality services, Brighter Sound were keen to break new ground and use the Revised matrix Standard to help manage change. Tina Redford Head of Music Leader North West reflects back on her matrix Standard journey:
“The launch of a Revised version of the matrix Standard came at just the right time for our organisation. We had recently moved to a wider umbrella brand with a broadened vision and greater integration of our services. We knew that our IAG delivery is of a high quality and wanted the national quality mark to endorse this, but at the same time we wanted external support to help us plan for growth and to challenge us. It was at this point in our matrix journey that we sought the help of a matrix advisor.”
“An external pair of eyes helped us as we implemented our plan, do and review approach to growth and business improvement.”
“In our experience, the advisor time was invaluable – it gave the process of achieving the accreditation focus and momentum. The advisor helped demystify the assessment process and raised company confidence and belief when it was needed. An excellent example of a ‘critical friend’.”
The matrix journey continued through to a successful assessment in September 2011. Tina continued:
“The whole process was rigorous – both the advisor and the assessor asked challenging and probing questions. The questions genuinely and correctly identified our areas for improvement, which suggest the approach works.”
“Before assessment, we knew what we did and that we achieved quality results. We were able to evidence our successes. However, we needed to better articulate how our company approach, practice and processes contributed to those successes.”
“By doing this, we have illustrated how our vision/values/objectives inform everything we do…from the people we employ, to the questions that we ask, the outputs that we deliver and the outcomes we achieve etc.”
“The impact of this is that at Brighter Sound we have improved our ability to message to users, partners and each other …who we are, what we do and the difference that we make.”
“We hope to see return on investment in both non-metric and metric measures. The non-metric returns are the improvements we are continually making to company practices including the capturing the impact of our appraisal system and ensuring that monitoring and evaluation of our IAG services to young people and adults inform the Brighter Sound future. We hope the metric returns will be leverage of future funding.”
Tina compared the whole matrix Standard experience to a rigorous company MOT:
“Our matrix journey made us take the time out to pull into the garage, kick all the tyres and ensure everything was working to enable us to move forward!”
“We purposefully chose the Revised 2011 version of the matrix Standard as we needed a future-looking experience for us. Usually rewards and awards are given for past endeavours but it feels like we have been accredited for having a service designed for the road ahead.”
Tribal, IAG Centre at HMP The Verne
The Verne prison, with approximately 600 prisoners, is situated on the South Dorset coast on the Portland peninsular. Support for offenders in relation to Careers Information and Advice is provided by Tribal.
Tribal Careers Advisers provide one to one support to determine prisoners’ Education Training and Employment ‘goals’. It is the achievement of these outcomes which provide evidence of progression while at The Verne and potential job opportunities and a reduction in re-offending rates on release.
As one of the first organisations to achieve the revised matrix Standard, Tribal is very positive about the benefits of using the revised version of the Standard to improve Tribal Careers Information and Advice services.
Katrina Dymond, OLASS South West Regional Manager, looks back on their revised Standard assessment:
“As a service we have had substantial measurable benefits from our preparation and actual assessment against the Standard. The criteria within the new standard encouraged us to look afresh at what we provide to our clients and adopt a how and why approach”
“Being assessed against an outcome based framework has made us rethink how we capture and measure achievements and the impact of our service”
“From using the self assessment tool onwards, the revised matrix Standard helped us to identify where we needed to improve our delivery and the processes in place to monitor impact and where we were already being successful.”
“Not to be boxed away”
“We are keen that this matrix Standard assessment is not an activity that we box away and revisit every three years. Instead we have sought to fully embed the outcome based framework into our Delivery and Quality Improvement Plan to shape our Careers Information and Advice Service activities on an ongoing basis”
“The assessor’s verbal and written feedback has already been acted upon! For example a suggested improvement area to strengthen our marketing has led to a rebranding of the Tribal CIA service and targeted promotion; as a result we have already recorded an increase in demand.”
The Assessment Process
“As an organisation that has delivered a Careers Service in custody for the past 6 years we are used to inspection and external audits so the assessment visit did not present the team with any great anxiety. This was re-enforced by the Assessor who was professional, friendly and approachable in the way she communicated with staff and prisoners and reviewed the service.
The process concluded with feedback and an outcome based report, ensuring we have a steer to make ongoing improvements”
What messages would you give to other organisations about the Revised matrix Standard?
“Don’t assume that the revised version of the Standard is simply more of the same. It is a significantly enhanced framework that is outcome focused. With an increased emphasis on outcome funding the revised matrix Standard makes excellent business sense”
“In the current climate there is need to ensure all expenditure is effectively utilised. On reflection the assessment cost for an organisation of our size and scope provides excellent value for money.”
Nisai Virtual Academy Ltd.
Nisai Virtual Academy (NVA) provides ICT based learning solutions to young people and adults who are unable to engage in mainstream education for a range of reasons including medical exclusion and behavioural issues, geographically isolated or living overseas – indeed any learner who would benefit from a customised learning programme.
Its mission is ‘To provide a high quality service to displaced learners enabling greater access to the best possible educational and social opportunities through the creation of on-line learning communities’. NVA has about 500 students per year. The Academy was the first on-line organisation to meet the revised matrix Standard in September 2011. Nick Robin (Programme Delivery Director) explains more about their service and the motivation in seeking accreditation against the matrix Standard:
“Of the 30 staff working within the Academy there are four staff whose roles include information, advice and guidance (IAG) delivery at key points within the NSA learner journey. IAG is delivered on our learning platform using a range of technologies including: virtual classrooms, telephone, video conference, as well as some face to face."
“We had been seeking matrix Standard accreditation for some time and wanted to show to funders, partners and of course service users that our services met the badge for the highest quality in providing careers advice.”
“Upon hearing of the outcome based approach of the revised matrix Standard we were keen to work towards this version. As an organisation we work in an outcome based environment where making a difference and impact is crucial. The revised version of the Standard seems more in keeping with our results orientated approach.”
“With support from a Registered matrix Adviser we reviewed the student journey and explored what difference IAG was making at each stage of interaction with the student. Of course we have the additional challenge of providing IAG remotely and therefore at times capturing outcomes remotely.”
When considering what advice to give organisations delivering IAG via technologies and seeking matrix Standard Accreditation Nick had one headline message:
“Our advice would be to have evidence to show the Assessor of how you review the impact of your technology approaches. For example if you are using Skype for IAG interviews can you show a learner and adviser perspective on the effectiveness of this approach? What impact has the technology had in motivating and empowering the individual to progress and achieve their goals?”
Nick had another key message:
“The Assessment was a rigorous process – not having gone through the matrix Accreditation Process before, Nisai was expecting a tough assessment, and it was tough, but very supportive."
“The Assessor was highly skilled and gave new insights into the various aspects of our service that needed improving. The feedback and supportive critical analysis crystallised certain areas that were in need of fine tuning and development. In particular we needed to revisit our approach to client outcomes and firmly embedding outcomes across our learner support service. Of course this also meant strengthening the review cycle so we could show how learner outcomes are planned, realised and monitored effectively.”
A three month timescale was all it took to enhance these areas and a second stage assessment was planned for September.
“By September our improvements were already transparent and at the second visit we showed and explained to the Assessor how we had acted upon the areas requiring development.”
“We were thrilled to be told that we now met the matrix Standard. All in all it has been an awesome journey in refining and improving IAG delivery to our hard-to-reach students on-line.”
CSWP Ltd’s assessment against the revised matrix Standard was conducted during a period of unprecedented national economic and structural change and uncertainty in the guidance sector. Debra Gill the Business Improvement Manager for CSWP takes up the story:
“As an organisation we have been subjected to significant cuts in funding for young people’s IAG services, staff redundancies, changing roles and service parameters and modes of delivery. Against this backdrop the opportunity for an external matrix assessment for our services to young people and the adult Next Step contract, whilst challenging, provided us with a real opportunity to obtain an external measure of staff and client perceptions on the quality of our IAG Service”
“On first reading the revised Standard I was particularly struck with the linkages and synergy with other national quality marks, in particular Investors in People and the Common Inspection Framework. This alignment is welcomed and helps an organisation in the planning and roll out of business improvement practices and approaches”
Reflecting upon the CSWP revised matrix Standard experience Debra explained:
“The whole journey from using the self assessment tool, to accessing steer and support from a Registered matrix Adviser, through to the assessment was so helpful. The journey helped us reflect upon our current business challenges and focus upon a way forward”
When thinking about the difference between this revised version of the Standard and the previous version Debra provides some useful pointers for other organisations seeking Accreditation:
“The fact that client outcomes are at the very heart of the revised Standard is so pleasing to see and is a real improvement on the earlier version of the Standard. Additionally the increased emphasis upon staff competencies and technological advances is welcomed. We were able to show how our service now uses mobile phone technologies and social networking to promote and deliver certain aspects of our service”
Inevitably the cost benefits of assessment are fundamental considerations during the current economic climate. Debra explained her approach to this key factor:
“To ensure maximum value for money I would encourage organisations to think carefully about what additional objectives they seek to gain from their matrix Assessment. Of course achieving the quality Standard is a key driver but the opportunity to have a Registered matrix Assessor provide bespoke feedback on an aspect of service such as leadership, resources, service delivery or improvement areas may only occur every three years.”
“From the onset we were empowered by our Assessor to highlight any additional specific objectives that we wanted from the assessment. We seized this opportunity to capture objective feedback on our recently conducted skills audit process.”
At the end of the assessment CSWP was told that they have met the requirements of the revised version of the Standard. The Business Improvement Manager and senior management team as a whole were delighted with the final outcome:
“Our two assessors ensured a robust approach and the final decision and feedback were delivered professionally. The experience was motivational and supportive in highlighting strengths and suggested areas for continuous improvement. The detailed report has been helpful and is written in outcome based text to reflect the Standard and its approach.”
Finally, when asked to reflect upon advice for those seeking matrix Accreditation against the revised Standard, Debra highlighted two key recommendations:
“Firstly, I would encourage all providers within our sector to start looking at the Standard sooner rather than later. The subtle but very important changes and emphasis on outcome based practices will require evidence so start gathering the evidence now!”
“Be clear on what your organisation wants from the assessment. The skilled assessors are focused upon catching your organisation in and want to add value and ensure value for money.”