As a Baby Boomer, it has been an interesting process learning to interact with millennials who are just getting started in their careers. I’ve had to keep in mind that the millennials have been shaped by social networks, where everyone is perceived to be on equal footing and immediate feedback is constantly sought. Growing up in the dawn of the digital age, their view of the world is, in many ways different than my own, so learning where they’re coming from is important to help guide them in a direction where they can be successful.
It seems that many different sources define millennials differently. For our purposes here I will use the U.S. Census Bureau definition, where millennials are defined as young adults between ages 18-34. As you can see from the Pew Research Center's 2015 projected population by generation, millennials will overtake baby boomers as America’s largest generation, so we need to find effective ways to infuse them into the workforce.
I have recently changed my approach to working with early career millennials and I have to say it has helped me. I am taking a mentoring approach. This approach, right out of the gates, helps me to understand the goals the individual has. In addition, this approach helps me to gain insightful information around how the digital age is viewed by the mentee, what their motivations are, and it opens the opportunity for me to provide instant feedback. I find myself comparing and contrasting my career with them and asking them how they would approach a situation. That way I can understand how their thought process might be different, and then we work together on the best approach to take.
Another side benefit to mentoring is that the mentees tend to stay with a company longer. A 2016 Deloitte millennials survey found that millennials intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%), than not (32%).
Harvard Business Review outlined three different approaches of mentoring:
- Reverse mentoring — in this approach the coaching is mutual. The millennial is sharing insights on social media, technology, and culture. This approach is about listening and getting the mentees perspectives. It’s about collaboration.
- Group mentoring — your company sets up a technology platform that allows mentees to define mentoring in their own terms, you then group like topics and have senior managers participate in the mentoring by topic. This spreads out the mentoring task, incorporates community forums and group polling.
- Anonymous mentoring — This method uses psychological testing and a background review to match mentees with trained mentors outside the organization. Exchanges are conducted entirely online, and both the mentee and the mentor, who is usually a professional coach or seasoned executive, remain anonymous. The engagement is typically paid for by the mentee’s company and lasts six to twelve months. In this case the mentee typically reaches out with a specific request for mentoring (i.e. tomorrow afternoon I am presenting a large project to executives and I have bad news to deliver. Can you help?)
At the end of the day, leaders lead and that attitude holds true for all generations. As a mentor, I am a teacher, and with the fresh perspectives millennials bring, at times I find myself as the student. They want to learn as much as we do. Don’t we all learn something new, even from someone younger than ourselves?