Embrace Millennials in the Workplace with an Updated Approach in Mentoring. Creating a culture of support and learning for the workforce of our future.
Mentoring programs are being adapted to the meet the needs of the Millennials, enhancing the relationship between the generations and motivating the new diverse workforce. New models have emerged that address the changing dynamics of the workplace. Much has been written about how Millennials have different learning and work styles than their older counterparts, the Baby Boomers. They like to work in teams, need immediate feedback to stay motivated, focused and on track, excel in their ability to adapt to new technology and want to have fun at work. They view work as a part of life and value work that is personally fulfilling. So what can we do to keep them engaged? It’s time to consider group mentoring, situational mentoring and reverse mentoring that effectively engages and motivates Millennials while building productive relationships that bridge the inter-generational divide.
Mentoring programs are proven to advance careers by developing leadership skills and building relationships. Pairing senior, experienced employees with less experienced newer employees brings value to all participants. Mentees learn the company culture, receive feedback and guidance and gain a greater understanding of the operations of the business. Mentors experience personal fulfillment and satisfaction from helping others and expand their communication skills. In order for mentoring programs to continue to produce these results we need to update them.
Millennials want their work to connect to a larger purpose and have been said to be the most socially conscious generation since the 1960's. “They are used to overachieving academically and making strong personal commitments to community service. Keep them engaged, and they will be happy to overachieve for you (Meiser and Willyerd, 2010).” So what can we do to keep them engaged? Adding models of mentoring to the traditional one-to-one mentoring model such as group mentoring, situational mentoring and reverse mentoring will address the needs of Millennials.
Group mentoring can be structured in different ways depending on the organization. Using a social media technology platform where employees can post questions to the group to solicit guidance is an innovative way to share information. (Designing such a platform would be an ideal group mentoring project.) Once launched, a senior experienced mentor would oversee the communication exchange, weigh in where necessary and monitor the accuracy of the advice posted. Blogs could be started on different topics and challenges employees face within the organization with regards to current projects that are in the pipeline. An online training video could be required to educate the potential participants of the rules of engagement.
Alternately groups can meet in person in a relaxed setting. Take a conference room and turn it into a collaboration room by removing the formal table and chairs. Add comfortable chairs and low tables to create an open and inviting atmosphere. Cover the walls with white boards for brainstorming. Groups of three to eight mentees and a mentor would meet there regularly to work on a project as a team. In this way the mentees learn from each other in addition to the mentor. Communication and presentation skills can be developed by requiring that short presentations be prepared to deliver new ideas or processes.
Situational mentoring is short term and temporary relationships meant to address a specific situation such as a business presentation, report or project work. The mentee reaches out to a mentor from a preset list of available mentors to assist and guide them in the short term assignment. Shared calendars can be used with mentors allocating blocks of available time. A commitment for a minimum amount of time from mentors would be required with mentors selected to participate to ensure representation from all departments.
Reverse mentoring taps into the technological knowledge and expertise of the younger workers by having them be mentors to the older employees in the workplace. Jack Welch initiated this innovative strategy in 1999 when he paired employees in their 20's and 30's with older employees to teach them the new technology of the time, the internet. In reverse mentoring younger workers are the designated mentors and the older workers are the mentees. Both groups benefit from the interaction. In a study done by Sloan Center on Aging & Work in collaboration with Boston College Center for Work and Family, The Hartford Insurance Company implemented such a program with positive results. In the results published in their report, Reverse Mentoring at the Hartford: Cross-Generational Transfer of Knowledge about Social Media, The Hartford recommends companies take the following steps to develop a successful program. First develop a project timeline. Then outline the business objectives. Hartford formed a cross-generational team of junior and senior staff to work out the program goals. Train the mentors so that they understand what the mentees are seeking to achieve in the program. Give the program a formal structure. Direct the mentors that each mentee will learn differently and to respect those differences. Direct the mentees that they need to be open minded in this process and receptive to what information their mentors are imparting to them. Keep the mentoring program going to continue to keep young talent motivated.
Resources for designing mentoring programs can be found at: Tips & Strategies for Mentoring Millennials, a thought paper by Management Mentors and mentoring.org's Tools for Designing and Planning.
Failure to act now to engage the younger generation will impact corporate profits with not only higher turnover costs but the loss of high potential talent.
Allder, Kelly. (2014). Rules of engagement. Benefits Canada. 38 (7), 73.
DeAngelis, K. L. (2013). Reverse mentoring at The Hartford: cross-generational transfer of knowledge about social media. Chesnut Hill, MA: Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College.
Ellis, R. (2013). Reverse mentoring: letting millennials lead the way. T+D . American Society for Training & Development.
Management Mentors. (2014). Not your grandma’s mentoring program: tips & strategies for mentoring millennials. Chestnut Hill, MA.
Meister, Jeanne C. and Willyerd, Karie.(2010).Mentoring Millennials. Havard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr/2010/05/mentoring-millennials.