Mentoring Millennials

millenialsMentoring programs, both formal and informal, have proven to be a highly effective means of developing talent and increasing retention. They can also help reduce costs and boost productivity and efficiency.

When mentoring a millennial, however, the traditional approach is best left behind.

While studies have shown that most millennials want to engage in a mentoring relationship, it’s not necessarily the old-fashioned one-on-one model. Millennials grew up using mobile devices to instantly access information. They leverage their networks to discover new ideas and see mentoring as a learning process that involves a range of relationships. This view of mentoring has evolved from the ‘80s and ’90s, when it was seen as a relationship between a senior mentor and a junior mentee. Today, technology plays a key role as people communicate in a broad, networked environment.

Although the concept of modern mentoring is foreign to many organizations, studies show that employees across generations are usually willing to adjust their approach and use technology to share knowledge. In doing so, they can help modernize their organizations’ mentoring programs and reap the benefits.

To update your mentoring culture, consider the following:

Avoid traditional mentoring jargon: Use terms like “social” or “collaborative.” Remove “mentor” and “mentee” and replace with “advisor” and “learner.” Position the program so employees can engage in learning relationships of varying types, from private ones to large groups.

Foster continuous learning: Market the program in ways that speak to your organization’s culture. Create groups focused on popular topics, then recruit advisors to help set learning goals. New participants can then choose from established learning opportunities or start their own conversations.

Wrap modern mentoring around formal programs: Use traditional mentoring programs that are attached to formal training programs (like onboarding) as a starting place to expand into modern mentoring and allow for independent connections. Create a technology-enabled environment where participants can learn from one another around topics based on formal program objectives. “Land and expand” models help employees “land” in formal programs, then “expand” beyond those participants.