Informal Mentoring - A Great Way to Build Skills and Culture for Your Business
Sarah A Scala, M. Ed & OD, ACC
Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes
Mentor programs are typically designed through formal or informal means. Informal mentoring can happen throughout various levels within an organization. Sometimes it is an official program, and often it is not. Informal mentoring sometimes resembles a more experienced person taking the time to teach skills to a new hire. At other times, it may appear when someone in the community or a professional organization takes a person “under their wing” to help them learn the culture or build their network. Most mentor program are informal.
Characteristics of Less Formal Mentoring
In an informal mentor program, goals are less specific. There is often no training involved for the mentor or mentee on how to mentor or the setting of expectations. Typically there are also no time limits or set schedules for these mentor/mentee interactions and little to no expense incurred to a business. The outcomes of these less formal programs are often not evaluated, resulting in less data about their success rate.
Benefits of Informal Mentor Programs
The benefits of a less formal program are that they are often organic and happen throughout the organization without needed staff resources. They are flexible and can be started or ended easily. If the mentor and mentee are not the right fit, it is simple to stop the guidance. These programs are very simple, and add huge value to the business!
Example of an Effective Informal Program
I formally ran a business with 9 direct reports, who all had similar roles and unique development needs. Instead of formalizing a program, I decided to try something new. In a staff meeting, I used two flip charts. On one chart I wrote: “Strengths” and on the other chart I wrote “Development Areas”. Each member of the team wrote one strength and one skill they wanted to develop. The team then gathered around the charts, reviewed the lists, and each person offered to teach another co-worker one of the skills they had self-identified as a strength. As the leader of this team, I simply checked in with each team member during regular meetings to see how they were doing with closing their skill gaps. The team’s skills improved quickly! Everyone had a role in both teaching and learning, which strengthened the culture of this organization.
What examples of informal mentoring have you been involved in? Share a comment or story.
Check out my blog post on the Positive Use of Power: Mentor Programs Strengthen Culture and Produce Strong ROI.
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