Are You Ready for the Mentoring Evolution?

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.

Photo credit: ITU Pictures via / CC BY

By Janet Williams

As Director of Human Capital and Performance Consulting for Coley & Associates, Dr. Janet E. Williams provides Government clients and commercial companies insight on how to leverage resources and maximize services for improvements to company operations. She specializes in mentoring, progressive management process improvements, accountability and control, revenue enhancements, and other organizational change methods. For almost 20 years, Dr. Williams worked in government and head an Emerging Leaders Program for mentoring youth. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton University a MBA from Troy State University, and her doctorate in Public Policy and Leadership from Walden University.

8 replies on “Are You Ready for the Mentoring Evolution?”

Excellent article, Dr. Williams! Mentoring is often an overlooked part of being a leader, yet so vital in creating new leaders. As a bonafide Millennial, I can say you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Dear Kevin:

Thank you for taking the time to review our blog so early in the am. It is good to hear that those who chose to comment on the topic of millennials, are getting it right. Today, I found my self reading a article entitled the, “11 Tips for managing Millennials”, in it author Susan Healthfield shares, ” Millennials seek leadership, and even structure, from their older and managerial coworkers, but expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas.” I appreciated this perspective, especially working in an industry in which judgement can have a lasting impact on ones’ career.

Seeking out promotions and advancement is an exceptional goal to have when one is young. The goal of success is the type of aspiration which is primed to take young adults further. As shared in this article, “millennials are ready to take on the world”, and as such we should continue to encourage them, and not suppress their dreams, gentle but firm guidance is my favorite tool. Again continue to follow us, we welcome and appreciate your feedback.

I found this information to be very helpful. As a youth development professional and coach for over 20 years, mentoring can have a profound impact on a young person’s life. Mentoring goes far beyond the professional setting and is especially helpful to youth who come from “challenged” backgrounds and surroundings. Mentoring can help youth identify useful tools and coping skills that they can use through adulthood when faced with challenging situations. I am looking forward to future blogs and information provided on mentoring and coaching. Thank you.

Mr. Lomeli (Frank) thank you so much for taking the time to respond to our blog, I find that there is a multitude of research on the topic of mentoring youth, that is especially helpful to you in the field of youth development. I like to routinely review the sources from, they periodically have substantive information here that can be used for both youth and adult mentoring.

As you may be aware adult mentoring, especially in the work environment has its own unique factors to take into consideration. I believe much can be learned from looking at the other side of the spectrum remembering that these youth will one day be adults, and hoping that they carry some of the lessons learned into their adulthood. Continue to follow us here at we continue to have services and solutions that can be tailored and useful for all your mentoring needs. I look forward to exchanging views with you in the continued future, again thank you for taking the time to review our blog.

I work in a municipal government setting and our organization doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, which I think is unfortunate. The organization (and City as a whole) struggles to connect with, attract and retain Millennials, and implementing the ideas you presented here would greatly benefit the entire workforce.

S. Cummings, thank you for sharing a perspective of local government, I appreciate this opinion, since I worked in a locality for many years. In reading an article today in, I noticed that they referred to the three top reasons for organizations to consider a mentoring program include; showing the company cares, creating a more engaged workforce, and promoting a higher job satisfaction.

As you indicated it is difficult at times to connect with employees within the organization, and perhaps a mentoring program is a great solution. I also believe it is important to get the attention of the decision makers within your organization who will ultimately be responsible for subsidizing and supporting a mentoring program or a mentoring based solution. Share with me, do you know who those decision makers are? And if so do you believe they would be receptive to a discussion about a mentoring solution? Ultimately, I believe that our greatest resources are our employees, so capitalizing on that investment is a great decision for any organization. Continue to follow us, and reach out to me directly if I can assist your organization in any way.

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