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Key Mentoring Program Decisions, Part 2: How to Match

Key Mentoring Program Decisions, Part 2: How to Match

A 3-part series on making informed decisions about your company’s mentoring program

Last week we examined the question of when it’s time to automate your mentoring program. This week we’re taking a deep dive on a key question as you create a mentoring program: how should you match your mentees to your mentors? You have two fundamental options to choose from – and that makes your decision appear deceptively simple. Yet each option has major ramifications to both participants and administrators, and immediately leads to a broad batch of new questions. Let’s examine the two options in-depth.    

Voluntary Matching: Mentees Make the Match

Voluntary matching is a mentor program environment where each mentee is free to choose their mentor or mentors. Voluntary matching assumes that the mentee will avail themselves of mentors if offered, and ‘opt-in’ to mentoring in general. Pushing the burden of choosing a mentor onto the mentee makes voluntary matching a good choice for ‘on-demand’ and reverse mentoring, and voluntary matching is a popular choice among startup companies that wish to provide ‘microlearning’ opportunities for mentees seeking out a mentor at their convenience. Voluntary matching generally promotes a more ‘lateral’ organization where relationships and creativity are valued, as the mentoring topics are not necessarily directly related to the core operations of the company. 

Forced Matching: Employer Makes the Match

Forced matching (or employer matching) is a program environment where a company employee will ‘assign’ mentors to mentees. Most typically, this is performed by the program administrator who is a member of the Human Resources department. Forced matching is typically the best option for ‘mission critical’ mentoring like new employee onboarding and professional development. Forced matching fosters a more ‘vertical’ organization, where competency and consistency are key cultural values. 

Automation Maximizes The Benefits

Clearly, either option carries its own unique qualities and best uses. Fortunately, the Digital Era has ushered in a ‘middle path’ that can increase the benefits of both options. By analyzing the data provided by participants, an automated mentoring platform can make matching recommendations to mentees. Participants build a program profile, whose data fields are architected collaboratively by the employer and the mentoring platform operator, and inclusive of variables that are unique to the company and relevant in mentoring: company division, expertise, geography, and personality test findings are consistently popular entries.  

In a program with voluntary matching, the automated platform recommends mentors with a strong match to the mentee, empowering mentees to make a better-informed choice about their mentors and increase the likelihood of a strong match as a result. Employers work with the automated platform operator to ‘weight’ the data fields to maintain influence the matching process, and even ‘filter’ the mentor view based on key variables, like geography or department. 

In the forced matching environment, the automated platform recommends matches, which are then approved by the administrator. The algorithmic matching recommendation is of critical value to program administrators, who would otherwise be burdened with the daunting task of matching employees that they may or may not have any familiarity – and then bear the brunt of criticism from participants whose match did not turn out well.     

The platform also serves as an institutional memory, keeping close track on participation. This function ensures that no two participants are matched more than a specific number of times, and can help administrators recognize when a mentee could be converted to a mentor after X number of times or years as a mentee. This is of particular value to program administrators who have suffered through years of manual program administration, and must sift through spreadsheets to glean insight on program participants.

Tune in next week for our third and final key mentor program decision!

Mark Brodbeck, MSW

Director of Marketing at eMentorConnect. Passionate about people intent on elevating others, and other examples of enlightened self-interest. Frank Sinatra said it best: 'It's one world, pal. We're all neighbors.'