Mentorship and the Future of Work

I am the product of baby boomer parents who survived an arguably sheltered millennial upbringing in Southern California. My parents’ generation boasts of having worked at the same company for 20+ years, and some will easily double that number before their retirement. Company loyalty is something that baby boomers value immensely, and as these things often go, they’ve raised a bunch of restless, challenge-crazed and adventure-seeking millennials. The generational differences not only change how employees work alongside each other in today’s age-diverse workforce, but it also impacts how leaders should structure the succession plans and mentoring programs at work to ensure that there is learning and development, rather than resistance and conflict occurring as we seek to build workplace relationships to strengthen our teams and the future of the company.

According to HR expert and LinkedIn contributing writer, Meghan M. Biro, “Half of the full-time workforce is projected to be remote employees working from home either full or part time by 2020. In addition, the average American worker now spends only 4.5 years at one job–and that number is even less for Millennials.” If you’re reading this, thinking “No way am I going to let my workforce become 50% remote workers or have employees leave after an average of 4 years,” then I applaud you for your faith in the ability of your business to stand still amidst the whirlwind of change sure to affect all of us in the next few years. Realistically, you will not be able to attract or retain the top talent you want in your organization if you cannot offer them similar flex options and challenges and the room for growth and opportunity that they demand. Ms. Biro goes on to note that close to 80% of college grads mark culture fit and opportunity for growth as their top two qualifications for what attracts them to a new role/company. That’s huge! Money is no longer the most important factor for many of these career making moves. So how can you make sure to stay on top of your game? One way is to build a strong mentorship program at work, so that you can train employees constantly and consistently on the ins and outs of your business, and also offer them room to grow within the company and work with different people throughout the organization. To build a mentorship program that will last, check out these quick tips!

  1. Mentorship relationships will need to be a continuing dialogue between all parties. Gone are the days where a manager identifies an employee’s strengths. Now, we all sit at the table and have a discussion about the best fit, and share feedback amongst the players involved.
  2. Mentorships should be a two-way street. A mentor is not just an older employee who has been around the block. It’s a leader, a teacher, someone who can share knowledge. And now, with multi-generational workforces, this goes both ways! The employees in a mentorship should equally be teaching, learning, and growing.
  3. The style of training may need to change. If your organization favors once a year trainings, they may need to reevaluate that system and piecemeal the training out in modules over a course of several weeks or months. Offering new information and then allowing employees to put it into action, a little bit at a time, has proven to be quite a successful approach to cross-training and mentoring.
  4. Encourage your employees to embrace their whole identity (as millennials often look for this quality in new ventures) and to still maintain work/life balance and boundaries. Many people want to be seen for the great employee they are, but also as a human being with individual pursuits and passions too. Make sure you take this into account when establishing mentorships to ensure that the pairings are mutually beneficial.
  5. Listen to your employees! This cannot be expressed enough, when implementing any new system or rolling out a new plan, because your employees are the best source of feedback when trying to make positive changes in the workplace and building strong mentorships that will translate into efficiency, productivity, collaboration, and success for your workplace.