What do you see when you picture a mentoring program? Chances are you envision a face-to-face meeting between a more experienced employee (the mentor) and a person who requires guidance and wishes to gain expertise (the mentee.) This is a traditional mentoring approach. While many formal mentoring programs like these exist, it is important to note that traditional face-to-face mentoring is not the only type of program out there. There are many different types of mentoring programs and structures. Here are a few options to consider:
Virtual mentoring is a form of mentoring that uses technology such as email, web applications, or phone as a means of communication between the mentor and mentee. This form of mentoring is ideal for those who have busy schedules and cannot meet in person or when the parties are not in the same physical location.
Group mentoring is a form of mentoring that matches up mentors with multiple mentees in an organization. This form of mentoring is ideal for organizations that have a greater amount of mentees than mentors.
Some advantages of group mentoring are that it allows mentors to pass on information to a lot of people at once and it allows mentees who are uncomfortable meeting one-on-one the opportunity to meet in a group setting.
A drawback of group mentoring is that it is not conducive to the development of a 1 on 1 relationship where the mentor and mentee really get to know one another and identify personalized developmental goals and opportunities for the mentee.
In a more traditional formal mentoring program, mentors and mentees agree to meet for an extended period of 6-12 months or more and for an hour or more in person to focus on the mentees objectives. This form of mentoring is ideal where possible, but only when chemistry exists between mentor and mentee.
In a traditional model, many times mentors and mentees are paired by an administrator and the chemistry between mentor and mentee is not always a great fit. This often results in the program administrator having to reassign matches midway through the program and results in less than ideal outcomes.
As you can see, there are many possibilities to consider when formalizing employee mentoring programs and each structure has potential benefits and drawbacks. It is important to consider enlisting the help of an expert to review and discuss the options and desired outcomes to put a plan in place.