Three Ways to Mentor Millennials

How are you supposed to effectively coach young workers?

It's a definite challenge for managers to juggle their own work while trying to mentor new employees.

An article in the May 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review claims "in four years, millennials -- the people born between 1977 and 1997 -- will account for nearly half the employees in the world."

The magazine conducted a poll of 2,200 millennials and found that a majority seek constant feedback and quick advancement, but their career expectations aren't as unrealistic as many people assumed.

Effective mentoring is fundamental to their happiness and success in the workplace, though, with millennials seeing work as a key part of life that ties into their personal sense of purpose. They're the most socially conscious generation since the 1960s, according to the study.

HBR outlines three mentoring methods that work particularly well with millenials. Here's a summary of why:

  1. Reverse mentoring
  2. Reverse mentoring changes the dynamic of the traditional mentor/mentee relationship by having the less experienced newbie mentor a more senior executive. This is particularly effective in teaching older employees how to use social networking tools, as global businesses such as Unilever have discovered.

    Why does it work? Molly DiBianca sums it up in the Delaware Employment Law Blog: "The mentee gets to learn skills or obtains access to information that otherwise would be unavailable or unattainable. The learning environment is non-threatening, which means that it is much more likely to stick. The mentor has no incentive to make the experience a hostile or showmanship-like event. Not only does the student rank substantially higher than the teacher in the organisation, but the student gets direct fulfillment from the relationship as well."

  3. Group mentoring
  4. By setting up a forum for a group of millennials, one senior employee can coach multiple mentees. Millennials and their mentor foster an entire peer group of support. Companies that adopt group mentoring find themselves getting results for little initial investment, with many group mentoring solutions employing social networking, with traditional face-to-face methods offered as a supplement.

    Why does it work? Howard Rosen, an employee of insurance firm Chartis, writes: "...having a group of peers is a huge advantage, because it really helps to hear that you're not alone. You get to hear how other people are grappling with the same issues right now and you get an affirmation of how hard it can be, as well as good ideas for how to proceed. It's almost a form of group therapy and validation."

  5. Anonymous mentoring
  6. Anonymous mentoring matches millennials with experienced mentors from outside the organisation using psychological testing and background reviews. The benefit is that this ensures mentors have an agenda-free interest in the mentee's professional development.
    Change Factory, which develops Australian anonymous mentoring solution EQmentor, sees it as a model particularly suited to the 21st century workforce. "For working professionals, the demand for quality mentoring in an emotionally safe and retribution-free environment is priceless."
A well implemented mentoring system looks like one of the best ways to go about fostering development in the younger generation, so if you're looking to keep your millennial workers keen then adopting a useful mentorship program might just be the way to go.

But are there other options you'd recommend? Share your experiences -- as a mentor or a mentee -- below.

(Picture: DrewTM, CC2.0)