Which Mentor Matching Option Is Right for You?

– A MentorcliQ Article –

Which Mentor Matching Option Is Right for You?

The Ins and Outs of Self-Directed and Admin Matching

When you’re designing your mentoring program, one of the biggest factors you will need to determine is how your want mentors matched with mentees. The typical mentor matching options are either to have self-directed matching, or to have mentoring program administrators match each pair. There are legitimate and even research-supported reasons for choosing either matching scheme. Which one you ultimately land on—and whether you choose to do both within the same program—will depend on a critical review of your organizational needs, and the needs of participants.

Explore Mentor Matching Options During the Planning Stage

How you plan to have your mentees and mentors matched within the program is a planning stage decision. You won’t be able to effectively roll out your program if you don’t determine which matching method will work best for your organizational needs. Some things to consider will be:

  • The size of your program
  • How you will gather data about mentors and mentees to make matches (such as HRIS integration and personality surveys)
  • Minimum requirements for program participation (both mentors and mentees)
  • How participants would prefer to be matched
  • Program administrator bandwidth
  • The type of mentoring matches

This list is not exhaustive, but it should give you the right idea. Taking into consideration what your organization and participants need out of the matching format should be a central part of the planning phase and come well before the program starts enrolling participants. Mentee and mentoring matching will flourish when you’ve effectively structured the matching process in a way that maximizes the success rate of matches and the subsequent mentoring relationships.

Administrator matching mentors with mentees.

Self-Directed Matching

Self-directed matching in a mentoring program means that either:  A) the mentee finds and picks a mentor, or B) the mentor finds and picks a mentee. This is the most thought of matching option as it fits well with most mentoring programs.

When should you choose self-directed matching? There are several reasons why you may want to use self-directed matching. This type of matching option can be easily implemented with mentoring software Mentees and mentors feel a sense of ownership for the match when they make the choice for themselves Adults tend to want to have control over their development and learning (i.e., andragogy) Program administrators have limited time, making administrator matching inefficient Your organization needs to reduce onboarding costs, which can exceed $3,000 per employee.

Many companies come to MentorcliQ because they want to use mentoring software to ease administrative burdens and allow mentees and mentors to find their own mentoring partner. The self-directed mentor matching option that MentorcliQ offers can be configured in a number of ways, which not only helps administrators ensure quality matches are made, but also helps mentees and mentors take an active role in deciding who they connect with for mentoring.

All successful matches made with mentoring software start with a comprehensive mentoring participant profile. These profiles can be configured by administrators so that participants input specific information—such as location, job function, or experiences—that is then subsequently taken into consideration when our matching algorithm works behind the scenes. 

You may have a variety of mentoring programs, but let’s take onboarding as an example. Perhaps you are running an onboarding program and want to ensure that mentees find mentors who work in the same business unit/job function as the mentee. The algorithm can be configured and weighted so that potential mentor matches must meet that particular condition. This lets you control the program criteria to the degree you need as the administrator, while still allowing the participants to have the final say about who they partner with. 

Leveraging an algorithm in mentor matching is a scientifically-based approach that’s consequently also utilized by some of the most popular dating services in the world. (And no, mentoring is certainly not a dating service, but it shares many of the same concepts regarding finding two individuals with similar personalities and interests.)

When should you NOT use self-directed mentor matching? Are there any downsides to self-directed matching for mentoring? While I wouldn’t call them negative necessarily, there are some considerations to keep in mind that may make you decide self-directed is not right for your program. Your program structure needs to have certain mentors assigned to certain mentees. Your organizational culture includes many introverts who may not feel comfortable asking someone to be their mentor. You want to maintain oversight over the matches made.  

If any of these three factors is true, then you may want to consider admin matching over self-directed.

Three mentoring administrators matching mentors and mentees on the MentorcliQ platform on a laptop computer in an office setting.

Administrator Mentor Matching

Now let’s look at administrator matching as an option for your mentorship program. Admin matching is when the administrator(s) of the program make the match for each mentor and mentee. They may do this in consultation with the participants, with other administrators, with other managers and leaders, etc.

When should you choose admin mentor matching? Some reasons why you may choose administrator matching as the right fit for your program include: Your program structure needs to have certain mentors assigned to certain mentees. Your organizational culture includes many introverts who may not feel comfortable asking someone to be their mentor. You want to maintain tight control over the matches made. Sounds familiar, right? That’s because these are the very reason why you wouldn’t want to choose self-directed matching. For example, read how one of our clients uses admin matching for their introverted culture.

Admin matching isn’t necessarily always about oversight, or even about reducing the stress of introverts (both of which can be incredibly important). It could make far more sense to deploy admin matching when the program is distinctly skills-based and aligns with certain organizational goals. For example, since as many as 1 in 5 workers feel personally discriminated against because of their background (according to a 2021 Deloitte survey), your D&I goals may include a reverse mentoring strategy intended to pair executives with employees from historically marginalized populations. 

Placing the matching responsibility in the hands of program administrators has come a long way in the past decade. Administrators now have options such as MentorcliQ mentoring software to help them deal with the administrative burden of matching participants. Administrators no longer have to suffer through tedious and time-consuming spreadsheets to try to pair people up. 

Even if you are running multiple programs at once and each needs varying degrees of control, you can configure MentorcliQ to fit each unique program. This means you can actually run a highly controlled succession planning program, for example, in which you make the matches as an administrator, while also running an onboarding program that uses self-directed matching. The software is just that versatile.

When should you NOT choose admin mentor matching? I read an interesting perspective on mentor matching recently. It was part of a story about a business roundtable discussion on mentoring, and in it, Kelly Rich of Amazon Music described being paired with a mentor as she transitioned into her new job with the company. “He’s a great guy. We have good conversations, but it is forced,” Rich said. “It’s a different relationship than any I’ve ever had with any of my other mentors, and I don’t feel like I get out of it what I need. We have [a] bi-monthly call, and it’s a bi-monthly call. And again, he’s a great guy, but I don’t think it serves a true purpose for me.”   

And therein lies the potential downside of using admin matching. The majority of mentoring participants want to have control over who they connect with and work with as a mentee or mentor, so you run the risk of diminishing their relationship if you force the match.

A couple of things to keep in mind. You may want to avoid admin matching if:

  • Your workplace culture values independence and choice for employees
  • You have no critical need for maintaining control over the matches made
  • If either of these is true, self-directed matching may be the best fit for your program

Still, I’ll reiterate here: MentorcliQ’s mentoring software still uses the matching algorithm whether you’re using a self-directed or admin matching strategy. Even with administrator-level mentor matching, the administrator can see a best-fit percentage for potential mentor/mentee pairs, which makes the process much easier. 

Mentoring administrators talking about mentoring strategies at a desk in an office.

Create a Strategic Mentoring Program with MentorcliQ

We know that each mentoring format is unique, which is why we spend time with our clients guiding them through program design consultations and strategic program planning. What we’ve seen over the years is that most organizations use a combination of self-directed and administrator matching options for their programs, with one matching option being right in some circumstances while the other option makes better sense in other situations.

One of the most highly valued and utilized features in the MentorcliQ platform is our SMART match option. SMART match looks at every possible combination of every available participant and generates the best possible outcome for all parties involved. It saves admins hours of time that they would have spent on hand-matching people. 

The mentoring experts at MentorcliQ will take the time to discuss your program needs with you, assess your organizational culture, identify the options open to you, and help you determine the best fit for you and your program. The advice above can help you get started, but we encourage you to contact us to take the next step in designing your mentoring program. We’re committed to helping you do more with mentoring.

Laura Francis
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