Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tips for Mentoring Millennials

According to an article in the most recently published Harvard Business Review, “in four years, millennials — the people born between 1977 and 1997 — will account for nearly half the employees in the world.”

Does this make you nervous?  If so, you're not alone.  This change of generations in the workforce will affect many common business practices, one being mentoring.  Typically when one thinks of "mentoring," the thought of an older, wiser professional molding a young protege to be his or her successor comes to mind.  The Business Review's article challenges organizations to break through that old stigma, and to focus on generating more creative ways of mentoring.  The goal?  Making Millennials feel valuable, letting them share their fresh outlooks on their workplace, and providing personal and career development.


The following are the three different types of mentoring suggested in the article:

1. Reverse mentoring -- Let the young employee teach the old dog some new tricks.  Millennials can offer new insight into workplace processes and provide input on how to make things better.

2. Group mentoring -- With a smaller amount of more experienced professionals available (due to the Baby Boomers retiring), this can provide Millennial employees with the mentoring experience they desire in the form of a peer group.  One senior employee can host roundtable discussions or a forum for multiple mentees at once.  To me, this sounds like a great idea since Millennials are very social and like to give and receive feedback from many individuals.

3. Anonymous mentoring -- This is new to me but sounds very interesting.  Matching companies conduct behavioral tests to match Millennial employees with an anonymous mentor outside of their organization.  One benefit of this according to the article it "ensures mentors have an agenda-free interest in the mentee’s professional development."  On the flip side, the younger mentee may be more willing to open up and discuss problems and uncertainties they experience due to the anonymity. 

Do you have any tips about how to mentor Millennials?  Feel free to leave any ideas or comments!

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center


  1. As a speaker, trainer and consultant for professional mentoring, I agree that mentoring is going to become the essential ingredient for giving millenials a clear path to leadership.

    The reason I provide training for these programs is that most people who know how to do something, don't necessaritly know how to teach the thinking process experience taught them. The skills needed are listening, being a keen observer of patterns of behavior and the results they produce, asking reflective questions that encourage insight and breakthrough thinking, support techniques that foster action and persistence when the going gets rough, cultural and age diversity competency to bridge generational and cultural gaps, resisting giving advice or doing it for them, and learning to give appropritate feedback.

    Your chart beautifully illustrates what millenials want. Knowing this is a good thing. Knowing how to make adjustments so these differences work to everyone's advantage and contribute to the bottom line is much more complex.

    When I did long-term consulting for a mentoring program at a major national laboratory, we saw that within three years of participation, more than 70 percent of both mentors and proteges were promoted.

    With Boomers leaving the workforce, either reluctantly or because they can afford to retire, a structured and supported mentoring program can make a huge difference preparing millenials for the challenges to come.

  2. As someone who mentors a lot of people I hadn't really given much thought to the whole age group debate and how to teach people from a specific age group. Obviously I do plan and adjust my training according, depending on the age group I am dealing with but this article has helped me see that I need to actually spend some time thinking about the 1977-1997 age group specifically. Thanks.