4 Ways To Mentor Millennials
In 10 years, 75 percent of the world’s workforce will be millennials.
This seemingly apocalyptic emergence of the next generation into today’s workforce has spawned a litany of media buzz about how to best deal with the millennial beast. These new enigmatic workers prefer instant communication to long memos. They prefer virtual communication to in-person interaction. They are more focused on career development than loyalty to their employers and only 29 percent feel engaged at work, according to Gallup.
But this generation wants more than an increased salary and opportunities for advancement to stay engaged. They need a creative approach to mentoring that plays to their workplace habits. While this might seem like a lot for managers, who are negotiating the needs of several different generations, there are a few innovative ways to engage your millennial workers and harness their potential toward leadership–without excluding your other employees.
Here are 4 ways to keep millennials engaged through mentoring.
1. Use virtual mentoring.
Millennials grew up alongside the internet. Instant messaging and social networking are staples of the millennial existence, and their ease with technology has transferred into a preference for social and virtual learning, according to Harvard Business Review. You should incorporate the same technologies in your workplace, if you haven’t already.
Consider this: When Susan Hutt was vice president of Workbrain, a software company based in San Jose, Calif., she developed a system of mentoring that mirrored the immediate, limited text model of Twitter. When she discovered her employees craved constant feedback, her online communication tool allowed other employees to respond instantly with 140 characters or less. These pieces of micro feedback were direct, insightful and concise. Employees could even track their progress on private dashboards.
After a meeting or workshop, employees could ask a group of employees whether they thought the material was helpful and what could be improved. Hutt found the immediate responses were honest and thoughtful because employees had a limited space to provide feedback.
2. Listen actively to all levels of the company.
Similar to reverse mentoring, you can use this system to put the burden on lower level employees to teach executives what they know best, like how to engage on social media and implement new software systems.
While Millennials want to hear about tools and techniques to advance, they also want to be heard and appreciated. In her book, “Working more effectively with Millennials,” Margaret Snell encourages cross-generational mentoring that flows in both directions.
According to Forbes, Millennials respect those who listen to their ideas and have an appreciation for their technological abilities. Baby Boomers may have a more complex understand of company policies and practices, but millennials can bring fresh ideas to stimulate company growth. Consider giving Millennials a louder voice in your organization by allowing them to participate in brainstorming sessions, or even just offer feedback on day-to-day operations. Millennials who are more involved in their work and understand where they fit into the “big picture” are more likely to be engaged.
And more engagement means more productivity. According to Gallup, the companies who ranked in the top fourth for employee engagement saw 17 percent more productivity, 70 percent fewer workplace safety incidents, 41 percent less absenteeism, 10 percent better customer ratings and were 21 percent more profitable than companies that ranked in the bottom fourth of employee engagement.
3. Create a mentoring network
Forget the image of stately patriarch imparting knowledge on a bespeckled youth. Today’s ideal mentor comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and millennial mentees hunger for information from every variety of mentors. The one-to-one model of mentoring no longer does the job.
Remember, not all mentoring has to be personal or intimate. Millennials are used to a constant stream of feedback from Facebook friends and total strangers on the internet, so consider creating a space where your employees can offer feedback in a similar way. One example: British Telecommunications established a network of video tutorials created by employees about problems or other topics they came across at work. Because Millennials don’t have the patience for long memos or multiple training sessions, British Telecommunications’ dare2share network gave employees a chance to share their expertise with others in a more engaging environment.
4. Go beyond with career and life mentoring.
Millennials have an unparalleled desire to advance their careers and get the most out of life, and you can help them do that with some life mentoring. Unlike their parents, Millennials want to integrate their work and lives, and sometimes they work too much. Project Time Off found that 43 percent of workaholics, or “work martyrs” are millennials compared to 29 percent pf the total respondents. But by providing instant feedback, a flexible work environment, and some help navigating their career path to get them where they want to go, you can better engage and retain your millennials. According to Gallup, 56 percent of millennials say managers who held them accountable for their performance felt engaged–twice the amount of millennials who feel engaged today. Harvard Business Review reports that millennials expect their bosses to help them navigate their career path, and allow them to blend work and life. This can mean creating a flexible work schedule, allowing employees to work from home and blurring the lines between work and personal relationships.
For more in-depth information on the tools needed to communicate openly and for a more detailed roadmap on how to develop leaders, take the Coaching and Mentoring for Technical Leaders.