For our purposes, an employer panel is a live session in which a number of employers take part in a facilitated discussion on a particular theme or topic, typically in front of a postdoc audience. A workshop is a more intensive session where a panel of employers interact more actively with the postdoc participants and may include pre-work to discuss together at the session. Employer workshops were also held without an audience, where a group of employers was invited to a workshop on a particular topic with the Prosper team, to ultimately create a resource for postdocs.
Panels are a really good way to give postdocs an opportunity to hear directly from employers and to ask any questions they may have in a safe environment.
Here, we list a number of factors to consider when developing an delivering an employer panel. We provide some sample resources and templates for organising a session which you can adapt as appropriate.
Theme or topic: This could be organised around a particular sector - such as local government, energy or manufacturing. You could select a theme or topic based on the demand or interest about that sector within your postdoc population. Alternatively, your panel could focus on a cross-sector theme or function, such as sustainability, data analysis or project management. We found this thematic approach to have the advantage of bringing a broad range of employers together and therefore having the potential to be relevant to postdocs from a broader range of disciplines. It also gives employers the opportunity to learn about best practice in other sectors.
Purpose and outcomes: It’s vital to have an understanding of what you hope your postdocs (and employers) will gain from participation. You may aim for participants to gain:
- More in depth understanding of career paths in this area
- Awareness of the key skills and competencies required to thrive in this field
- Ideas on how to get started in this field: where to research, network and apply for roles
- Greater understanding of the day-to-day realities, challenges and benefits of working in this field
- Top tips for thriving in this field
- Awareness of the similarities and differences between this field and working as a researcher (this works best if you have some former postdocs on the panel)
- Understanding of the values and culture within the field
These desired outcomes can be adapted once you’ve determined your panel members, for example, if they have particular expertise that you would like to draw out. What’s important is that you are outcome focussed from the outset.
Panel size: We found 3-4 employers to be an ideal number for a panel. This enables diverse views to be expressed while simultaneously allowing for more in depth exploration.
Session length: We found between 60 and 90 minutes to be the most successful session length. 90 minutes allows more in-depth exploration but it can be more difficult to persuade both employers and postdoc participants to commit for this amount of time. You could try starting with a series of one-hour sessions and expand to longer sessions once you have more established commitment.
With a panel of 3-4 in size allow around 20 minutes per topic question or talking point to allow each panel member around 5 minutes response time each.
Practical considerations: The majority of Prosper sessions were delivered online via Zoom and subsequently made available via the Prosper portal. Given that participation online requires a much smaller time commitment from employers, we recommend starting with this, and moving to live delivery at a later stage should you wish to.
If you intend to record the session and upload it to a website or video channel, make this clear to employers from the outset and get their explicit consent for this, follow UK GDPR legislation. You can also speak to your internal UK GDPR, data protection and comms teams who may have their own forms for this and can help you if you need bespoke advice
Securing employer engagement for a panel session
Process timeline - We’ve aimed to capture the learning from our own employer engagement during the Prosper pilots, you can use this timeline as a checklist or guide, but feel free to adapt it to your own resources and institutional context.
Sample session plan for a 60-minute employer panel - The following is a suggested format for a 60-minute session. You can adapt this as you see fit.
Communications templates- Example communication templates to be modified as needed.
Example slides for a panel session