Informal mentoring occurs when one colleague helps, supports and advises another on a regular basis, without being asked by a manager or team leader.
It occurs because:
- a colleague considers they are more experienced and can help smooth the way for another
- a colleague sees that another has skills and experience they may learn from
- the organisation has a supportive, caring, learning culture
- those involved want it to happen and are willing to take the time to make it happen.
Some informal schemes can be more successful than formal ones because:
- only people willing to act as mentors carry out the role
- mentors are likely to be those with an enthusiasm for their work and for the role
- mentoring only occurs if both the mentor and mentee are willing for it to take place
- there is no pressure on either party to succeed
- there is no agenda other than that set by the two parties involved.
However, there are drawbacks to an informal scheme and these might include:
- staff may feel they are obliged to mentor weaker colleagues
- over-enthusiastic individuals offering mentoring services when they are not required
- a 'hit-and-miss' approach, where personalities can intrude
- informal scheduling can lead to problems of availability of either party.
A mentoring scheme should be inclusive and all staff that require a mentor should be able to have access to one. It is also very difficult to evaluate informal mentoring schemes and to determine their success.
print - back to scenario