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Why Your Existing Mentoring Programs May Not Work For Millennials And Gen Z?

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder and CEO

If you Google ‘how to manage the Millennials and Gen Z’, you?ll find enough articles on how to mentor and not manage them! Cliché, but not untrue!

The new generation workforce is changing the rules of work. It is a collaborative generation that is extremely technologically savvy. Having faced the recession economy growing up, financial motivation is of prime importance to these professionals.

But at the same time, career advancement and opportunities of growth are major driving factors for them as well. Achieving their career and personal goals are paramount for this generation. Swanky cafeterias and pool tables don?t make the cut anymore. Organizations have to come up with robust plans to keep this generation motivated and highly engaged at work.

It is probably the most difficult time for organizations, in terms of having to manage multiple generations in the workforce at the same time. Each generation has its own priorities and expectations. Companies can no longer use the same blanket to engage and retain them. And the same goes for mentoring as well.

Choice − Do you offer that?

Millennials are sending out a strong message − mentoring is a must, or we take our skills elsewhere. However, organizations need to evaluate is ?what kind of mentoring do they want?? And here, ?they? is the operative word.

If you continue to push mentoring programs to millennials based on what ?you? think is needed, then all you do is waste the time of the mentee and the mentor.

Millennials and Gen Z want choice?in everything. Mentoring programs for millennials have to add value to their path and show tangible results. Until now, almost all mentoring programs have been organization-driven. However, Gen-Z professionals want mentoring to become self-driven. They want choice and the freedom to choose mentors, both from within the organization and externally, people they feel will add value to their work and life; to help them grow as professionals and become leaders of tomorrow.

Relevance − How relevant are the programs to the mentees?

Most mentoring strategies and programs are designed based on assumptions of what the workforce needs. But to make sure that your mentoring programs are working, you need to get a granular understanding of where your audience stands. What are their real pain points? How are these pain points going to evolve going forward, taking into consideration all the variables and touchpoints?

Organizations need mentoring platforms that leverage the power of technologies such as Machine Learning and AI to offer skill level, in-depth, and comprehensive analytical reports on all the employees. Only when you have access to such granular details into what kind of programs employees are looking for, where they need help, how their job roles are evolving, what kind of growth areas they need to focus on, and how they need to develop their skill sets (both personal and technical), you can design programs that are relevant and will see a high acceptance and completion rate.

They also need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are ? based on comprehensive self-assessment tests that can clearly point out where they need mentoring help. As an organization, you need to help them identify these points and provide them a means to establish a meaningful relationship with the right mentor, even if the mentor is external.

You also have to enable micro-mentoring, which is basically creating informal opportunities for mentoring by helping the employee connect with someone with more experience and expertise across the network. This strategy works beautifully for millennials as they can have multiple mentors over a small time frame, the mentors are of their choice, and the topics are relevant to them.

Convenience − How easily can they access mentors?

Mentoring is no longer about having long one-on-one sessions. One thing that we can attribute to the millennials is their need for simplicity and convenience. After all, to some extent, it was the convenience factor that propelled the meteoric rise of mobility. Today, there is hardly anything that we cannot do from our smartphones. And yes, they want this convenience to extend to their mentoring programs as well.

Given that millennials and Gen Z are driving the app economy (do you recall how Uber became a verb – you don?t hitch a ride, you Uber it), mentoring platforms also have to adapt. They would like the flexibility to connect with their mentors when they want to, how they want to, and from the device they want to. The anywhere, anytime culture is so pervasive that anything that doesn?t fit into this model has trouble being accepted.

Transparency and feedback − Are your programs transparent and offer actionable feedback?

Millennials and Gen Z professionals value transparency. Transparency builds trust. And they want their mentoring programs to be transparent as well. It helps if you can make your employees see that you are considering all their pain points without any prejudice and building mentoring programs that will help them achieve their goals.

Using approaches such as 16 Personality Factors Assessment helps in understanding if the mentees have a personality or gender preference, assessing and enabling the preferred structure of the meeting (think formal, free-flow, or agenda-driven etc.). You also need to establish clear guidelines to determine how learning has been accomplished. Clear and actionable feedback are a few ways to establish a transparent mentoring program.

When it comes to feedback, millennials and Gen Z prefer processes that are proactive and actionable. At the end of the program, are they getting clear feedback that points out areas of improvement, how to achieve those, and the steps needed to achieve them? Are your mentees getting timely recommendations for improving their skill sets? Are these nudges based on skill-level data?

Evaluating these factors help to tailor mentoring strategies and programs that resonate with the younger generation of employees. It also helps to connect the right mentee to the right mentor. Providing honest, timely, and relevant mentoring helps employees feel valued, engaged, and empowered at work.

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