Self-Matching vs Partner Preferencing

Self-Matching, Facilitator Matching, Traditional Mentoring, too many options and types of mentoring so how do I choose…?

At Art of Mentoring, we have deliberately avoided developing self-matching, fast-knowledge-transfer solutions into our platform because we firmly believe that it does not lend itself to real, developmental mentoring. This type of mentoring is a mutual exchange that develops over time, often quickly addressing short term goals and then delving deeply into more substantial conversations around career direction, unhelpful thinking, etc. Developmental, transformational mentoring goes beyond one or two coffee catch ups or a couple of online questions. Like the old adage of “give a man (or woman) a fish and feed him for a day but teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime”, we’re in the business of enabling people for life! Recently a mentor said to us, “Yeah? Open my networks to the mentee, that’s pretty cool, but teach him or her to network, now that’s powerful, isn’t it?”

Technology has a habit of looking for efficiencies to save money and so too has the mentoring industry succumbed, with many mentoring software providers touting self-matching as an administrator-friendly solution, creating a marketplace of mentors for mentees to choose from.

What is self-matching and 3 reasons why it falls short?

In self-match solutions, a mentee is presented with a marketplace of potential matches and can search, then request a match from a preferred mentor. There are a number of reasons why this is fraught with problems and produces less effective matches:

  1. Biased self-selection
    Bias and misguided assumptions lead a mentee to select a partner based on their seniority level (having a senior exec as a mentor can be a status symbol) or whether they like or feel comfortable with them. In fact, matching with someone too senior can be a mistake, and challenge, rather than comfort, is good for a mentoring relationship if the mentee is to be pushed outside their comfort zone.
  2. Availability of the mentor or mentee
    Say you open applications to participants, and mentees log in for the first time to the marketplace of mentors. They notice the C-Suite is available for mentoring at the time and so reach out to the C-Suite in droves, inundating their inboxes with match requests and leaving other mentors disappointed and unwilling to mentor again in future. In addition to this, imagine if the mentor had applied 6-months prior to only be contacted now to mentor, but by this time circumstances have changed and they’re no longer available.
  3. The match maker knows best
    Sometimes the match maker seems to have a magic touch and somehow knows what’s going to work, even if the participants are not convinced at first. The benefit of a matching algorithm and a third-party match maker who can take algorithm suggestions or override them, is that it injects some objectivity into the process.. When the small proportion of facilitator matched participants in a program report they are unhappy with their match, there may be a valid reason to re-match, like “they used to be my direct report” or “they are a competitor”.  But when they say “I was more looking for someone with x, y and z”, or “I’m not sure I will get along with this person”,  our response is “we suggest that you give the match a try and come back to us if not.” 99% of the time these matches see the program through to the end and come back saying “we don’t know how you knew but that was the best match for me!”

When we started to build our alternative to self-matching, we were searching for a way for mentees to have input to their mentor allocation, without leaving them the final choice.

Spawned from research and experience, our new method, called Partner Preferencing,  allows the administrator to oversee and finalise matches, but streamlines the selection process, saving large amounts of time for the administrator. It’s not a silver bullet, there are always trade-offs, but we see it as a better solution. The premise is that mentees are presented with pre-curated mentor options based on agreed match criteria; powered with a smart algorithm. This solution is a great first step towards a more evidence-based way of matching effectively and efficiently. Mentees only see the most compatible mentors’ profiles, then choose which mentors they would be prepared to work with. Research suggests that having some degree of choice via Partner Preferencing is likely to increase a mentee’s commitment to the match and to the program.

Partner Preferencing isn’t going to be the best solution for all but for those, especially with large numbers or participants, this may be a great option to streamline some of the matching process to increase efficiency during the matching phase. At Art of Mentoring, we help you design and implement the most appropriate methodology for your needs so if you think Partner Preferencing sounds interesting or if you’d like to explore if it is for you, then please reach out to our team for a demonstration.  You can consider our Situation Analysis Workshop as a way of testing your program design ideas.

© Alex Richardson 2021


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