4 Ways to Effectively Combine Formal and Informal Mentoring

November 11, 2019

4 Ways to Combine Formal and Informal Mentoring Programs


Many individuals assume that all mentoring programs are the same. This is not the case, because mentoring can be customized to each individual organization. This makes it a great option as a career development program.

The differences between a women’s leadership mentoring and diversity mentoring are evident. However, the differences between formal and informal mentoring may not be.

Formal mentoring programs are well-structured and highly organization. There is typically a set agenda, scheduled sessions, and a purposefully selected mentor match. Informal mentoring is much more lenient, with fluctuating goals, dispersed sessions, and self-matched mentees.

Although these two mentoring styles oppose each other, they can be beneficial when used in union. If your organization has implemented a mentoring program, we recommend combining these two styles to take full advantage of the benefits.

Here are 4 ways to combine formal and informal mentoring…


Set Lenient Deadlines

Deadlines are a staple of formal mentoring relationships. They ensure goals and tasks get done, so the time in mentoring sessions is well spent. Deadlines also help to measure the success of the relationship by tracking goal progression. While these deadlines are important, you can combine formal with informal by encouraging increased lenience.

Lenient deadlines allow employees to learn at their own pace, an option that 58% of individuals prefer. Allowing individuals to work at their own pace gives them the ability to meet their goals on their terms. This also helps them create and maintain lenient deadlines that will keep them accountable.

However, even lenient deadlines should be documented and tracked within mentoring software. This will allow administrators to see the success of mentoring relationships and prove the ROI of the mentoring program.


Promote a Change of Scenery

With formal mentoring, meetings are generally held within the office. To incorporate an informal feel, encourage a change of scenery. This will be beneficial to the mentoring program’s appeal and the efficiency levels of individual mentorships. In fact, nearly two-thirds of decision makers say that meetings held outside of the office are more productive.

Providing participants with a break from the office helps them stay engaged with the mentoring program. When more things get done in mentorships, participants will see increased levels of career development, personal growth, and even workplace happiness.

When allowing mentoring sessions to take place off-site, ensure you communicate with the supervisors of your participants. If they are not in the loop, they may push back on the time spent in mentoring sessions. A combined formal and informal mentoring program requires cooperation from all levels of the organization.


Change Mentor Matching

Mentor matching takes place in both formal and informal mentoring. There are different ways to match mentors and mentees. The selected method can increase or decrease the formality of the program.

More formalized mentoring programs see administrators selecting the matches. Switching to a self-matching method will decrease the formality of the program. Allowing mentees to choose their own mentor also lead to high participant engagement. Self-matching is an effective way to promote compatible mentoring relationships.

If your program focuses on leadership mentoring or high-potentials, you may not want to implement self-matching. In this case, consider hybrid matching. This method allows the program administrators to narrow down the selection of mentors and gives the mentees options to choose from.

The easiest way to facilitate mentor matching is with mentoring software. Software provides a platform that hosts all mentor profiles for the mentee to peruse. Insala's Software uses an advanced matching algorithm to provide suggested matches for the mentee. This guides their selection in an informal fashion.


Encourage Participants to Connect

Mentors and mentees need to have a relationship beyond development. In overly formal mentoring programs, participants often overlook creating relationships. Combining informal mentoring by asking participants to connect on a higher level makes the mentorship more valuable.

A good way to do with is to start all mentorships with a “Get to Know You” session. During this time, participants can discuss themselves, their interests, and their aspirations to set up the relationship. This can also be a good time for mentors to help the mentees define their goals for the program.

Another way to ensure your participants are connecting is implementing mentoring training. Training will prepare all participants and administrators for the program. Training should include tips for communication, session ideas, and the role descriptions for mentors and mentees.

Overall, formal and informal mentoring are both great sources of employee development. They can lead to increased employee engagement and employee retention, higher levels of productivity, and great company culture. If you are looking to start a mentoring program for your organization, request a demo today with one of our experts.


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