Understanding the Millennial Workforce

Understanding millennials is not a simple case of nature versus nurture, both have played a key role. Their parents drilled in them the desire to succeed academically, to multi-task and be extremely organized between school and extracurricular activities. Millennials were raised with a heavy emphasis on structure and measurements of success. As a result, they are used to constant coaching and feedback which make them ideal to be mentoring participants.
Millennials have many positive qualities. Millennials are generally well educated, and are eager to prove their skills, as well as please their managers and coworkers in their work environment. They have also grown up with the fast-paced evolution of technology, which allows them to bring a unique skill and perspective on their very first day. They tend to be well organized, confident, and resilient and are excellent team players. Interestingly, they want to work in an environment where people are judged by their contributions and talent. Although they may not follow the same path as your current employees, they make perfect mentees (and mentors). So, we ask the question are millennials sounding like a challenge to mentor?

Mentoring Techniques for the Millennial Workforce

Millennials are definitely impacting the traditional mentoring model. Younger employees seek meaningful and time-efficient relationships with their senior colleagues. Emphasis on time efficient. It’s time for organizations to start experimenting with other mentoring styles. Here are five mentoring techniques that will re-vamp mentoring programs to be attractive for millennials:

  1. A Different Perspective. Provide a different perspective for the older generations who are mentoring. HR did not spend thousands of dollars because they wanted to fill desk chairs with a warm body. As a mentor, older mentors have invaluable knowledge that demands to be shared, but in this technological age, so do Millennials. This has caused a rise in reverse mentoring which is beneficial for both parties. Reverse mentoring may also be a good opportunity of introducing young employees to executive leadership. This not only achieves transferring new technology skills to your executives and upper management but it also fulfills the Millennial’s goal to build up their contacts and possibly find a sponsor to accelerate their career track.
  2. Social Mentoring. Thank social media for this one. Millennials are constantly updated with their family members’ and friends’ success stories. Instantaneously, they receive updates on who liked or loved their latest post and can pour over the long thread of comments to validate their activities. Why not use the social media style to your advantage? Group mentoring (aka peer-to-peer mentoring or social mentoring) collectively provides all the knowledge of your organization without most of the expense of a formal mentoring program.

    An example of how this concept is being put to use is in the VA Office of Information Technology (VA OI&T) mentoring program designed by Coley and Associates, Inc. The key was to go back to social network theory and the core ideas of collaboration, in particular, the idea of relationships between the members of any social network or community. It works as follows: VA OI&T wanted a repository where their mentoring participants and non-participating mentoring participants can view all their cumulative knowledge in one area. Plus, participants have the ability to like, share, and post additional helpful comments, ideas, documents and media as needed. For topics requiring an in-depth discussion, participants may share ideas quickly in an informal setting such as a forum. By encouraging collaboration, we achieved the three metric categories to measure the social engagement areas performance: 1) Labor-Management Relationship; 2) Employee Satisfaction and Engagement; and 3) Mission and Service Delivery.

  3. Engaging Millennials Millennials want a fun and social work environment. Now, this idea may clash with older generation workers but there is a way to create a balance. The younger workforce gravitates toward more egalitarian forms of mentoring. There are two mentoring models supporting this including group mentoring and situational mentoring.
    • Group mentoring – A team approach where mentees not only learn from the lead mentor but also from each other. This approach is less resource-intensive but still provides instantaneous feedback that Millennials demand.
    • Situational mentoring – A short-term and very similar to coaching in that it will focus on a specific skill that your Millennial may wish to improve such as public speaking. An added bonus for the Millennial, the mentee chooses their own mentor that is recognized as an expert within your company.
  4. Expand Channels of Digital Communication. Millennials are comfortable and efficient in multiple communication channels and this applies to their work environment. In addition to regular mentoring sessions, sending a text or Instant Message before or after a mentee’s big project or presentation demonstrates support. Flexibility in using the channel the mentee is comfortable with provides the regular contact Millennials crave, yet doesn’t disrupt the boundaries of the mentoring relationship. That being said, it is still important to have some facetime. Means of communication acceptable to both mentor and mentee needs to be established from the start. Video conferencing easily achieves needed facetime.
  5. Short-Burst Mentoring Style. Academic institutions such as the University of Texas at El Paso proudly hold “speed mentoring” events where aspiring mentees face off individually with prospective mentors for short bursts of advice and a cache of business cards. Millennial don’t see how one mentor can fulfill all their mentoring needs. They are looking for a group of mentors who can help them as they progress in their career. Speed mentoring not only will expose mentees to a variety of mentors but again may help Millennials find sponsorship.

Retain Millennial Talent With Your Company

If you want to see more Millennials not only being hired but staying, consider the techniques above, or better yet, a hybrid of several mentoring methods. Create an efficient work environment, one they can believe in. Give them a sense of belonging, a sense of self improvement and you will have happy people on your team ready to serve. The traditional mentoring model seems to be phasing out, but the need for mentoring is not, it is just simply evolving. What mentoring method(s) is best for your company?