Business Mentoring Matters

What is the difference between INFORMAL and FORMAL MENTORING?

Posted on Thu, Oct, 25, 2012

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informal vs formal mentoringIt’s important to understand the differences between formal and informal mentoring because different mentoring processes require different strategies and include different benchmarks and goals.

Formal and informal mentoring are similar but have distinct characteristics. Informal mentoring by definition has very little structure or is loosely structured based upon chemistry between two partners to be involved in a mentoring relationship. Informal mentoring will sometimes even develop into a long-term friendship.

Formal mentoring is structured, is based on a specific business objective, is often measured, and brings people together on the basis of compatibility. A formal relationship typically lasts for a specified amount of time and then formally ends (although sometimes a mentoring pair may decide to continue their mentoring relationship informally at that time).

The following are some key attributes of each.

Formal mentoring programs include:

  • Connection to a strategic business objective of the organization
  • Established goals
  • Measurable outcomes
  • Open access for all who qualify
  • Strategic pairing of mentors and mentorees
  • Mentoring engagements lasting 9-12 months
  • Expert training and support
  • Direct organizational benefits


Informal mentoring programs include:

  • Unspecified goals
  • Unknown outcomes
  • Limited access to the program
  • Self-selection of mentors and mentorees
  • Long-term mentoring
  • No expert training or support
  • Indirect organizational benefits

If you are wondering which type of program is better for you or for your company, it is important to know that the benefits of any type of mentoring are many, but that formal mentoring, when combined with mentoring training, provides the most effective professional development program available.

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