One of the more intimidating aspects of developing mentoring programs is the effort of matching mentors with their learner(s). Don’t worry! It’s important to understand that the purpose of creating a match is to help participants connect and build trust quickly. In order to do this, your goal is to create a matching process that will work best for the participants in your specific mentoring program within your unique organizational culture. The following ideas are some of the most common approaches to creating matches in formal mentor programs.
The AXLES Model
At TERP, we have developed the industry’s only model for developing mentoring programs, called the AXLES model. During the Designing the Experience component of the AXLES model, there are five key design decisions for building the most effective learning experience. Here is a brief overview:
- Learner Participation
- Mentor Participation
In design decision 3: matching, there are choices in approach to the matching process, as well as many tools available to help you in the process.
Connect and Build Trust
The impact of mentoring programs comes from sustained learning during mentor/learner relationships. Effective relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. One of the challenges in creating a highly-impactful mentoring program is matching learners and mentors in a way that helps them to quickly establish trust and connection. There are five common methods for matching participants.
Random: Arbitrarily assigning individual mentors to one or two learners is a common approach in programs with large numbers of participants. While “mis-matches”, or matches that don’t work well, are uncommon, this process has the largest risk.
Role & Location: Think about a new salesperson starting with the Boston location. You are most likely going to want an experienced salesperson in that location mentoring the new employee. This approach is best for programs that have specific content or skills being targeted for all learners in the program.
SME Rotation: This approach has tremendous benefit for leadership mentoring programs. In this type of matching, a learner meets with a series of mentors who have very targeted expertise. The learner is able to get clarity on key skills and topics in a relatively short amount of time. The downside of this type of matching is that there is less opportunity to build the deep trusting relationship you might get from a 1:1 mentor over an extended period.
Skill Match: One of the most common approaches, this method takes a single mentor with a specific expertise (i.e. presentation skills) and matches them with learners looking to develop in that one area.
Self-Select: Given the right tools, this option gives learners the greatest control and ownership over their mentoring experience. This approach allows learners to find and request mentors, either through an online website, intranet, or other communication.
Consider Additional Tools
There are many additional tools that can help create effective matches. Here are three to get you started:
- Individual Development Plans (IDPs): Help learners get concrete and descriptive about what they want to accomplish. Use the IDPs with a mentor counterpart: a CV or resume, to help with matching.
- Behavioral Assessments: Tools that create self-awareness and create opportunity to build trust. At TERP, we utilize the DISC assessment tool, which provides validated and research-based insights into key mentoring and leadership behaviors.
- Software Matching Platforms: Utilizing technology is a great way to empower learners to self-select mentors or peer groups. There are a few great choices out there. TERP partners with River Software, the social learning application, to help our clients create a program that supports self-selection.
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