Monster Thinking

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January 2014

How to mentor your millennials

Gen Y craves lots of feedback. Here's how to deliver it.

One of the millennial generation’s common workplace expectations is a desire to have mentors. One study found more than half of Generation Y employees believe having a mentor would help them contribute more at work. So how can your organization best mentor its millennials? Here are some ideas.

Help them connect

Millennial employees grew up with social media and texting, but they also be highly isolated in “real life” because of overreliance on technology for communication, says Tim Elmore, founder and president of Growing Leaders. “This has led to poor people skills, low emotional intelligence, and the inability to handle interpersonal challenges,” so while Millennials crave one-on-one relationships, they need some help. Pairing newly hired Millennials with mentors can be key in helping them “find their place within an organization and provide them development opportunities that they otherwise wouldn't have access to,” says Joe Cecere, president and chief creative officer at Little Co. “This, in turn, will increase engagement and ensure the next generation of leaders at your company are passionate about continuing your mission.”

Give them a veteran to work with

The best mentoring relationships are beneficial to both mentors and mentees. Matching your Millennials with mentors from other generations can help develop all your employees. “As a part of their professional development, pair up the rookies with company veterans to form mutually beneficial mentorships,” Elmore says. “The older employee can teach company tradition and the way things are done. The Gen Y-er can teach new technology skills and share new forms of communication.”

Give them a purpose

While Millennials are working on their own job duties, their mentors should also give them more advanced hands-on experience, says Halley Bock, president and CEO of Fierce Inc. “The ideal mentor will be in a position to allow Millennials to work on actual projects and take on extra responsibility.” This generation of employees is “driven by purpose,” Cecere adds. “They are seeking opportunities to learn and develop. Millennials need mentors to help them see their role in the organization's mission and they need to see mentors as enablers of professional growth outside of their typical job responsibilities.”

Talk to them — a lot

A mentoring relationship with a millennial is not likely to be a hands-off experience. Millennials were raised with lots of feedback, and they expect the same in the workplace. “They are looking for consistent feedback, especially in the beginning,” says Elmore. “Micromanage until you can manage by objective. Stay in communication and celebrate even small wins. It sounds counterintuitive, but it is exactly the management situation Millennials want and need.”

Think long-term

Mentoring your millennials can help them grow, but more importantly, it can help your organization retain them as baby boomers retire. Investing in mentoring your millennials can pay off, Bock says. “When millennials are provided opportunities, trusted with information, and have a clear understanding of the project, team, and company vision, they will be deeply engaged and committed.” “For businesses to thrive and grow, it is crucial to teach millennials who will become the workforce leaders of tomorrow not just the skills for the job but the nuances of conducting business,” Elmore says. “By doing so, we empower them to collaborate and communicate in a way that leads to increased innovation, and the development of forward-thinking tools that will better our systems and operations.”
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