With members of the baby boomer generation leaving the workforce en masse, either retiring or reducing their employment hours, businesses face an incredible challenge in limiting the exodus of their knowledge. Smart businesses recognize this risk and adapt. One approach is mentoring, passing on wisdom and insight; with millennials now representing the largest generation in the workforce, mentoring, in many cases, involves passing that wisdom and insight to a millennial.
As your organization moves through the changing of the guard, mentoring millennials effectively will be critical. Mentoring millennials is different than any other generation before them. The approach requires the ability to empathize with their underlying motivations, as well as the ability to commit the necessary time to satisfy their expectations around engagement and feedback.
So how do you become a successful mentor for millennials?
- Find the time to be great. In my experience, 80% of mentorship is listening and assessing your mentee’s motivations and environment. Being distracted by other personal or professional priorities will limit your effectiveness and ability to enjoy the experience. The other 20% is discussing how the mentee plans to or did approach a decision and for you to advise accordingly.
- Establish a regular cadence to your sessions. Sessions don’t need to be long meetings; a lot can be covered in 30 minutes with the right preparation. Frequency here may be even more critical as millennials seek feedback 50% more often than those generations before them. Set up monthly or bi-weekly sessions, depending on the maturity of your mentor/mentee relationship.
- Engage deeply. Engage with the intention to understand what is their North Star. Where are they headed? What guides them? What underlies their motivations?
- Understand the kind of feedback they need. Dimensions of feedback for millennials will differ from other generations namely in the area of meaning and importance. Millennials tend to seek greater meaning from their work. Said differently, they want to work on things that matter. Your feedback and guidance need to align to this paradigm. As an example, being a team player has less meaning than, say, ensuring learning or development of valuable skills or working on a project which aligns to their North Star.
- Keep it confidential. This is easily the most important aspect of mentorship. What gets discussed between you and the mentee is for your ears only. The mentee needs to understand that and trust the relationship. The only caveat is if something illegal or criminal is shared. Connect with your HR partner if you feel a line is ever crossed.
When successful, mentoring has major payoffs to your organization. For one, it lessens the risk of the exodus of boomer knowledge, but it also improves associate performance. Being a mentor is certainly a big commitment, but it’s also a very rewarding one. In part 2 of this series, I’ll be sharing strategies to help you prepare to take on the mentor role and set you up for success. Stay tuned!