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6 ways to give millennials the mentorship programs they want

Lauren Brousell | July 20, 2015
Traditional corporate mentorships just don't cut it for today's millennial workers. Younger employees seek meaningful and time-efficient relationships with senior colleagues. These six expert tips can help organizations understand millennial wants and needs, and create more effective mentor programs.

It can be hard for busy executives to find time for mentoring, but it's important for companies that want to retain millennials to have a few key business leaders involved in mentorships. "Programs don't work unless someone in HR or a senior executive is going to accept the role of champion and is willing to make sure the company invests in the program," Dessau says.

Amanda Mitchell, founder of executive coaching and management consultancy Our Corporate Life, says companies should get employees who are responsible for revenue, such as heads of marketing or sales, to drive the agendas of their mentor programs. "When they go to management and say they need this, they have juice behind them. They also need a strong partner in HR." 

Mitchell also suggests tying mentorships to financial or performance goals so senior people commit to participating. "Until you make it someone's responsibility, it's a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have."

3. Millennials can be 'reverse mentors'

Millennials don't want canned career advice or the same old, same old management-training tips. They want unparalleled access to key people, as well as specific advice based on what's actually happening with the company and the industry.

Sharada Subramaniam, manager of transition and integration at Walgreens and a millennial, has a mentor relationship with the company's vice president of IT. The executive was previously her boss, and the mentorship is a mutually beneficial extension of that relationship. "She'll tell me what's going on at the top and what it means for me, and I'll help her understand what people on the ground are thinking," Subramaniam says.

The relationship is also a "reverse mentorship," and the two help each other; it's not a one-sided arrangement in which the mentor provides the only guidance. When Walgreens opened an office in downtown Chicago as an alternative place for employees to work so they didn't have to make the trek to its suburban headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., Subramaniam helped her mentor overcome her initial hesitance to embrace the idea. I helped her understand that we should be more concerned about what their deliverables are versus physically seeing them," Subramaniam says. "It was important for her to hear the perspective of someone she trusts and it helped her build that confidence that it wasn't about people slacking, it was about finding what they're comfortable with to be more productive." (That office has since closed.) 

4. DIY mentoring options for millennials

Managers and executives may not be able to dedicate as much time as they'd like to mentorships, and not all millennials want regular check-in meetings to invade their calendars. Thankfully, giving and receiving mentoring tips doesn't have to take a lot of time. Our Corporate Life's Mitchell says a company she works with created a podcast with one of its executives to give millennials on-demand mentoring tips. "Rather than a one-off or a lunch and learn, record it and use it on the intranet. It's learning on your own time." Mitchell also suggests getting key managers and executives to use social media to answer questions from younger employees.


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