‘Tech-savvy and lazy?’, How to mentor millennials

Millennials at workThe way mentoring programme design was approached ten years ago needs to be reconsidered in the light of more recent generational differences in the workforce. By 2020 half the working population globally will come from the generation born between 1980 and 2000. As generations evolve, so do the methods for training, developing, coaching and mentoring people. Mentoring someone from the Millennial Generation (sometimes known as Generation Y) is not textbook developmental mentoring as we have experienced it previously. Understanding Millennials’ quite different career and value expectations is key if mentors are going to provide the right type of support to them, as well as the form of mentoring that Millennials relate best to, in order for organisational mentoring programmes to be effective.

So what is a stereotypical Millennial like?

So are Millennials really different to earlier generations? Surely Baby Boomers and Generation X behaved in a less responsible manner when they were younger? Our behaviours and priorities tend to adapt with age and maturity. I am sure there was plenty of criticism about other generations being lazy, self-opinionated and shallow. However, what really sets Millennials apart is their affinity with technology. They have grown up with the digital world and most of them have a better grasp of this critical business tool than most of their bosses.

Millennials have a sense of immediacy. They trust those who ‘walk the talk’, care more and are committed to saving the planet, are generally impatient for promotion, like lots of praise and feedback and in the view of some of the older generations, are not always that keen to put the right amount of effort into their careers. They want work that is personally fulfilling, to learn new skills and to connect to a larger purpose. Work life balance and opportunities to progress, stand out as the two most important factors for Millennials, once salary and package have been taken out of the equation, according to a 2016 Deloitte Survey on Millennials.

And what do Millennials want from mentoring?

So the desire of this generation to keep learning and progress in their careers, as well as the speed with which they will leave an organisation if their needs are not met, means that employers must ensure a very focussed response to their learning.

Millennials believe that mentoring is an effective and desirable type of career development training, which is great, as they are often not satisfied with more conventional management and leadership development programmes. They are keen to exploit both internal and external mentoring opportunities in their lives and are probably more receptive to having multiple mentors than other generations. The availability of mentoring is a pre-requisite for some millennials when choosing their employer. They can be quite impatient if the right mentoring is not available and are happy to go off and do their own thing and source their own mentor.

How can mentoring support a Millennial’s needs?

  • Millennials look for employers with similar values, and those organisations who demonstrate value alignment tend to retain their Millennial workforce better. Mentors who ‘walk and talk’ the values reinforce this sense of alignment and develop loyalty to the organisation.
  • Having their career, professional development and life ambitions supported is key to a Millennial. Again a mentor can fulfil these needs and Millennials are usually very keen to engage in mentoring.

Ways to engage Millennials in formal mentoring

With an intergenerational mix in your work force, you may need to offer a type of mentoring hybrid to your employees, but here are some mentoring ideas to really engage your Millennials:

1. Reverse mentoring

Millennials don’t want the formality of a typical organisational mentoring programme. They want access to and key advice from the right senior people and they want to find out what is going on both within their organisation, but also the industry, hence the interest in external mentors. The flip side of this is that millennials can make extraordinarily good reverse mentors, so you can make this an intention of the programme design. Feeling comfortable giving insights to their own mentors can turn the relationship into a real two-way learning experience and the programme can have this outcome in mind when designing it. Or be really overt and set it up as Reverse Mentoring, perhaps with an objective of learning about social media.

2. Group mentoring

I’ve used this successfully in organisations with a deficit of senior leaders suitable to be mentors. This can be delivered virtually or face to face and is often topic driven. As well as benefitting from the senior leader mentor, the mentees in the group enjoy some peer mentoring too. Having an opportunity to rotate the mentors is also popular as Millennials enjoy having multiple mentoring opportunities.

3. Spot mentoring

Millennials enjoy a more casual approach to mentoring, so the facilitation of opportunities to seek out a senior leader for a one off mentoring meeting, which can be described as ‘spot’ or ‘situational’ mentoring is a very specific and focussed approach to learning. Encourage this externally if possible as well.

4. Use more virtual mentoring

Most Millennial mentees will be extremely happy using skype, face time or chat facilities in their mentoring, so mentors may need to compromise on their own preferences for communication. However, nothing beats good face time together so make sure participants have face-to-face time if geography allows for it.

So I hope this has given you some insights into where forms of mentoring are evolving. If you would like to discuss these ideas further please do get in touch.

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