Mentoring as a tool for development is used mostly for career progression. This long-established method is used to engage the more experienced mentor dictating goals for the mentee to accomplish. Now, there is more of a self-directed goal setting process by the mentee which is used to drive the relationship forward. But how did it start?

The Origins of Mentoring

While researching the concept of mentoring, you will find that the term Mentor is adapted from the Greek epic poem “The Odyssey”. The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer who is arguably the greatest poet of the ancient world. When Odysseus left the training and care of his son Telemachus to his trusted friend Mentor, consequently, it turned into a life-time commitment for Mentor, and the mentoring relationship was established. As time passed, most craftsmen took on apprentices but their efforts were fixed only on goals – to get the apprentice to master one craft.

If we fast-forward to forty years ago, mentoring was used to encourage more diversity by providing mentors to groups that traditionally did not have a management or executive who mirrored their background. For example, women were matched to male senior management mentors. This was due to the lack of women mentors in executive positions. Today, with continued progress and diversity, mentor roles are promoted in every corporate culture to all individuals.

What are Millennials Really Looking for in a Company?

Shifting beliefs around mentoring have changed the paradigm around the mentoring relationship, when knowledge use to only flow between the mentor and the mentee. Today’s changing workforce saturated with college students, also known as millennials, has these employees more concerned about promotions and quickly climbing the corporate ladder, rather than knowledge transfer and retention. As a result, there are a few areas that can be offered to enhance the current demographics in the work environment:

Provide “Bite-sized” Mentoring

More conventional mentoring engagements are arranged for a 6-month to 2-year term. Millennials and Gen-Xers are more interested in having a group learning engagement, which can be established for shorter periods of time. This has led to the more popular styles of mentoring such as peer mentoring and group mentoring being introduced in the work environment. A mentor can lead a group in both peer and group mentoring to facilitate the exchange of ideas within the group, within more moderate timeframes. Within our Coley & Associates, Inc.’s mentoring program, we have set up forums and advice areas where any participant can post a topic of discussion and exchange information on the topics relevant to them and their careers.

Commit to Communities of Practice and Engagement

The use of the internet has allowed a more educated workforce instant access to knowledge. As an integral part of our mentoring program, we provide a Knowledge-based Library where clients can house their resources and knowledge in the form of documents, books, articles, and training videos. Employees tend to be more motivated by a personal commitment to the opportunities and demands encountered at work in a knowledge-productive environment, also known as a community of practice.

Utilize Mentors as Knowledge Champions

Mentoring can include task-oriented learning. This is important since new mentoring styles require mentors to not only advise but promote an environment of constant learning. Mentees still receive support and encouragement from their mentors while this learning approach is occurring. At the same time, the mentor is a champion of the corporate curriculum and mentoring is a significant feature of the learning landscape.

Create a Knowledge Flow in Both Directions

Social capital resides within mentoring relationships and includes resources such as: influence, information, knowledge, support, advice, and goodwill. A new employee who has just earned their degree brings a certain amount of social capital with them, especially if they have been guided by an educational mentor like an academic advisor. This may be a perfect opportunity for the new employee to engage in a reverse mentoring partnership to enrich the current workforce. The veteran workforce can add the newest technologies and techniques to their environment based upon their expertise and in turn acclimate the new employee to the company and new duties.

So whereas mentoring programs were seen as optional by companies in the past, today organizations must be ready to put their best foot forward when creating competitive options to have applicants consider them as an employer. Mentorship will most definitely play a role in the future of work; Millennials want mentorship and talk about it often. Fortunately, when companies are ready with an established formal mentoring program, opportunities exist to retain the best-talented employees who are self-directed and motivated to contribute more productively to the organization.

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