Business Mentoring: How We Match Mentors and Mentorees

When it comes to mentoring, the thing everyone wants to know is this: how do you make a successful match between a mentor and mentoree?What's the process like? How long does it take? Is there a secret sauce?

We can only speak about our own experience over the last 25 years, of course—experience that has influenced our mentoring software and proprietary matching algorithm.

Yeah, so about that algorithm. We call it "Precision Matching." And we bet you'd love to know more about it and about the matching process in general, right?

While we might not be able to reveal all of the algorithm's secrets (it is proprietary for a reason), we can share the rationale behind it, the difference between manual and system matching, the matching method we recommend most clients use, and the biggest mistakes that we see people make when it comes to making matches.

So let's pull back that curtain, shall we?

The Magic behind Our Matching Algorithm.

Our algorithm draws its information from an online matching form that all potential mentors and mentorees fill out. We developed and fine-tuned this form over many years. It currently includes the following sections:

  1. Focus areas/competencies. Our mentoring system comes with 25 default competencies, such as leadership, communication, technical skills, and so forth. Our clients can add and revise these competencies as they see fit. Competencies are based upon job knowledge and skills. The goal is to pair people who want to mentor—or be mentored in—certain competencies. This then allows the mentoring pair to have a focus as they begin their work together.
  2. Forced choice questions. These questions "force" people to make a choice, often between two desirable things. For example, a person might need to answer "yes" or "no" to the following statement: I'd rather my mentor be more businesslike than social.
  3. Personality test. Here, people rate themselves on a personality continuum.
  4. Ranking of key roles. In this section, mentorees must decide what type of mentor they want based on how they order the following roles: teacher, sponsor, cheerleader, counselor, and friend (meaning if they put "cheerleader" first and "counselor" last, it's more important that the mentor is a cheerleader than a friend). Mentors must decide the type of mentor they want to be and do the same thing, ranking the roles in order of most important to least.
  5. Essay section. This section is the only section that doesn't directly affect the algorithm. Program managers can use the essays as an additional resource as they review and finalize matches.

The Matching Process

We offer two main ways to match mentorees and mentors: manual matching and system matching. For both, we provide the online matching form that all mentorees and mentors fill out.

Characteristics of Manual Matching

  • It's subjective and relies quite a bit on the human touch.
  • Typically, the program manager (PM) will have a committee. The PM and committee members will hash out the matches based on info in the matching forms and through discussion/debate.
  • This is a time consuming process. It could take 3-5 hours to match 20 pairs. If you had 150 pairs, this could take two full days.

Characteristics of System Matching

  • It's objective. The program manager can justify each match since it's based on the algorithm, which weighs criteria from four of the five sections on the matching form.
  • The system does the heavy lifting by suggesting appropriate matches. There's no need to "hash out" the matches, so this method saves A LOT of time.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: There are two options within system matching: Auto Matching and 3-Step Matching

The 411 on Auto Matching

This is the quickest and easiest method, but it's not necessarily as effective as 3-step matching (or even manual).

How it works:

  • The system makes the matches based on the algorithm. The program manager likely accepts 90 percent of the matches the system recommends without reviewing further. The PM might make some edits to the other 10 percent.

The 411 on 3-Step Matching

We recommend this method for most clients because it combines the best of auto matching (the algorithm's speed and objectivity) and manual matching (the human touch).

How it works:

  1. The program manager (PM) chooses a mentoree and has the system suggest mentors. Based on this list, the PM chooses 1-3 "tentative" mentors to consider for this individual mentoree. The PM does this for all mentorees in the program.
  2. The PM then compares the mentoring forms for each mentoree against the 1-3 mentors she tentatively selected for the mentoree. The beauty of our system is that you can look at the forms side by side while online. The PM makes almost-final choices for each mentoree. (Note: Here's where reviewing the essay questions can be helpful.)
  3. The PM makes one final review. Now, the PM can look at the complete, just-about-final list of mentor/mentoree matches and make sure she is happy with the final selections. If yes, she can finalize the matches. Each mentor and mentoree will receive an email announcing the match, and the program will officially kick off.

At Management Mentors, we have a 90% success rate with 3-step matching and manual matching. (We don't have stats on auto matching.) And by "success," we mean the mentor and mentoree completed the program and said they had a positive experience.

We offer our Precision Matching tool as a standalone product if you have 50 or fewer users for your program. Fill out the form if you'd be interested in seeing a demo!

Here are the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to matching mentors and mentorees:

  • It gets too political. Someone on the committee is overly influential and may force matches based on office politics rather than the recommended matches.
  • A committee makes the matches but must send them to upper management for review, at which time upper management makes changes (and not for the better). The problem with this is that upper management was not involved in the committee meetings and discussions, so they might not understand the reasoning behind the matches.
  • People put too much emphasis on percentages. Our matching system provides a "matching percentage" between mentors and mentorees. So Jim Smith might be rated as a 58% match to Kim Jones, based on the matching algorithm. Percentages should be seen as a starting point for discussions, not the be-all end-all.

We know matching is a meaty topic and that you might have further questions. Please don't hesitate to reach out. We're happy to help.