Which Mentor Matching Option Is Right for You?

Laura Francis
Written by
Laura Francis

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 you want mentees and mentors to be matched. The typical options are self-directed or administrator matched, and both come with reasons for why you may want to choose one over the other.

Self-Directed Matching

Self-directed and admin matching optionsSelf-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 common matching option we see our clients use, and it fits well with most mentoring programs.

Why to Choose Self-Directed:

There are several reasons why you may want to use self-directed matching.

  1. This type of matching option can be easily implemented with mentoring software.
  2. Mentees and mentors feel a sense of ownership for the match when they make the choice for themselves.
  3. Adults tend to want to have control over their development and learning (i.e., andragogy).

Many companies come to River because they want to use mentoring software to ease administrative burdens and allow mentees and mentors to find their own mentoring partner. This self-directed matching option in River 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.

Mentees and mentors fill out profiles as part of joining the River mentoring system. 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. 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.

Disengaged employeeWhy NOT to Choose Self-Directed:

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.

  1. Your program structure needs to have certain mentors assigned to certain mentees.
  2. Your organizational culture includes many introverts who may not feel comfortable asking someone to be their mentor.
  3. You want to maintain tight control over the matches made.

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

Administrator Matching

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

Group meetingWhy to Choose Admin Matching:

Some reasons why you may choose administrator matching as the right fit for your program include:

  1. Your program structure needs to have certain mentors assigned to certain mentees.
  2. Your organizational culture includes many introverts who may not feel comfortable asking someone to be their mentor.
  3. 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 has come a long way in the past decade. Administrators now have options such as River mentoring software to help them deal with the administrative burden of matching participants; they no longer have to suffer through tedious and time-consuming spreadsheets to try to pair people up. So even if you are running multiple programs at once and each needs varying degrees of control, you can configure River to fit each unique program. This means you can actually run a highly controlled succession planning program in which you make the matches as an administrator, while also running an onboarding program that uses self-directed matching. Your options are endless!

Why NOT to Choose Admin Matching:

Mentoring Conversations webinarI 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:

  1. Your workplace culture values independence and choice for employees.
  2. 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.

Strategic Mentoring Consulting with River

Due to the highly configurable nature of our matching algorithm, it is more often the case that we recommend clients configure their programs to be self-directed so that users have choice, which most people will appreciate. The algorithm can still be finely tuned to recommend the subset of mentors that will make the most sense based on one or more criteria. Typically, administrator matching should be used only in instances when the programmatic needs dictate that a third-party should be involved in the match. Even in instances when our clients have a highly introverted culture, we typically recommend providing both options to the mentee (i.e., the ability to select their own mentor or to ask that an administrator assign them one) so that those who feel comfortable choosing their own mentor can still do so.

Nonetheless, we know that each mentoring program is unique, which is why we spend time with our clients guiding them through mentoring 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.

The mentoring experts at River 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.

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