In the past few blog posts, I’ve been exploring the topic of employee retention with regards recruits who are Millennials, also known as Gen Y, (born, give or take, between 1981-95).
Figuring out retention is a big challenge for businesses today, with the analytics and advisory company Gallup estimating Gen Y turnover to be costing the US economy alone, 30.5 billion dollars annually.
In earlier posts, I have covered retaining Millennial loyalty by clarifying career prospects and inviting their input. Now we come to the most important element in keeping Gen Y on payroll… and that is: providing mentoring.
Most companies know, by now, that Millennials’ earliest experiences – in their families, at school and in university – was a constant, targeted, structured stream of feedback, letting them know how they were ‘performing’ in their studies and extracurricular activities, and how to refine and improve such performance.
Most companies also understand that Millennials therefore carry an expectation of being mentored in the workplace.
But what many companies have not yet realised is the depth of engagement that mentoring provides – not just with their Gen Y hires, but across all generations on payroll.
Put a different way: mentoring doesn’t just keep a Millennial colleague more connected to the organisation longer-term, but fosters an adaptable, continually evolving work culture in general, across every level of a company.
So… where’s the problem in implementing an effective mentoring system in organisations? Surely it’s an obvious win-win for any company to include in its employee offerings?
It is… but when it comes to building a culture of mentoring in the workplace, there are a number of challenges to overcome.
Often, the investment of time to mentor is seen by too-busy managers as just as great of an obstacle as the investment of budget. Surely, there should be more self-sufficiency and taking initiative, and less ‘hand-holding’ and ‘checking in’ for employees who are, after all, supposed to be adults?
To that, I would reply that, at the end of the day, time management is always a matter of priorities. Mentoring does not have to mean ‘micro-managing’, neither does it have to mean extended, one-on-ones with each Gen Y employee.
A related concern, for managers who are ‘naturally’ inclined toward mentoring, is ‘tying them up’ when their expertise is demanded on competing, equally important tasks and responsibilities.
But mentoring does not require one permanent ‘elder’ assigned to a mentee indefinitely.
In fact, Millennials are used to passing from one mentor’s guidance to the next – just as they were at home, at school and on campus. Implementing such rotational or progressive mentoring though, is not going to happen ‘by accident’. It has to be designed and built into the long-term career progress paths of a Gen Y-friendly organisation.
Keep in mind that, despite the stereotypes that Millennials are ”arrogant’, ‘self-important’ and ‘narcissistic’, too impatient to do the slow, often unacknowledged work of figuring things out on their own… Gen Y recruits are actually humble when it comes to the limits of their own knowledge and experience base – that’s why they’re hoping you’ll mentor them!
While they are very comfortable researching solutions on the internet and via their network, they know there is key institutional knowledge they don’t possess about the organisation, and that there are standards of performance that are not going to be clear outside of specific feedback about what adjustments or improvements to make.
Meanwhile, beyond retention, and in terms of the broader benefit to companies, mentoring gives Gen Y hires a chance to share their generational interests, affinities, values and fears with their mentors, while simultaneously educating their guide in turn, drawing on their own tech expertise and awareness of innovation trends.
This last point is known as Reverse Mentoring – something I plan to discuss in a future blog.
For now, it is important to keep in mind that in managing and retaining Millennials, the role of a mentor, as one whose greater mission is to further the development of the less-experienced mentee, is one that, if undertaken, rewards the mentor as much as the mentee.
Retaining the restless, endlessly creative and innovative Gen Y (as well as their more conservative, cautious and their equally mobile successors, Gen Z) is demanding unprecedented levels of adaptability, open-mindedness and investment in human capital.
Fortunately, mentoring is one of the solutions whose reward ranges far beyond merely engaging and refining of the talent it hopes to retain.
To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/