3 Tips for Mentoring Millennials
First, know this: Millennials are humans. Based on all the “how to deal with Millennials” content that’s published daily, you would think that the generation was a newly discovered species that requires 24-hour monitoring and feeds only on rare and endangered plant life. The truth is that millennials are professional people that want to do a good job at work. They eat pizza and sandwiches. They don’t need to be “take care of,” but, just like everyone who came before them, they can benefit greatly from guidance and mentorship. Sure, millennials have been influenced by the time and culture in which they’ve grown up and, as a result, have some unique traits that should be considered. But, with a little planning and fine tuning, it should be fairly simple (and worthwhile) to make your mentorship program Millennial-friendly.
Build a Village
Between a shaky economy, high unemployment rates and even higher tuition costs, millennials have come of age during a time of uncertainty. It’s understandable that most recent grads are still figuring out which career path is right for them. For this reason, it makes sense to use an “it takes a village” approach to mentoring. Instead of matching each new hire to one mentor, assign them to a group of more seasoned employees from a variety of departments. By giving Millennials access to a multidisciplinary team of mentors, you’ll allow them to learn about different career paths, management styles and areas of your business. Also, divvying up the responsibility of mentorship among multiple managers lightens the load for everyone on your team.
Make Time for Mentorship
If your company’s professional development efforts begin and end with an annual review, you’re going to need to step it up. That thing about Millennials looking for consistent feedback? It’s true. You can attribute it to growing up with the real-time responsiveness of social media, current trends in education or popular parenting styles. Regardless, Millennials want to be told how they’re doing on a regular basis.
This isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t need to be exhausting or time-consuming for managers. The key is to establish designated times for mentorship. For example, set aside an hour a month for employees to meet with their mentors to ask career-related questions, seek advice and receive general feedback. Having a set time on the calendar helps manage millennials’ expectations about feedback and allows mentors to prepare their advice and encouragement in the most thoughtful and helpful manner possible.
Listen and Engage
We live in the age of the “interactive experience” and the democratization of information. Millennials are accustomed to an environment in which anyone with thumbs and a Wi-Fi connection can be heard. So make sure you’re listening. Mentoring doesn’t work without trust, and Millennials need to know their voice is being heard before putting their trust in a mentor. Interactions should feel less like presentations or lectures and more like a conversation and exchange of ideas. Millennials have been encouraged to embrace and celebrate difference and originality, so any talk that begins with “I tell every new grad they need to….” is probably going to fall on deaf ears.
Also, keep in mind that mentors can also benefit from a mentorship relationship that works like a two-way street. Millennials can offer fresh perspectives, provide insight on marketing to their demographic and help their teams stay on top of new technology and media. Remember: time spent mentoring millennials is an investment in your business’s future. While you don’t have to reinvent the wheel (they’re humans just like us!), it’s worth the extra effort to make sure your investment is a sound one.
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.