Can We Bring Mentorship Back to the Workplace…Please?!

millennials in the workplace“If you want to market to Millennials you better darn well learn how to engage the ones that work for you.” This was my response during a webinar couple of years ago when I was asked how a company could sell more services to people under 25 years old. In order to market to anyone you have to understand them. It’s been my experience that many managers and business owners fail to understand Millennials.

There is even some anger towards Millennials as employees. “They just don’t listen!” “They don’t want to work.” “They have no appreciation or loyalty for the job.”

In regards to the last comment, I can understand why. Millennials saw many of their parents and relatives in the Boomer and Generation X ranges get repaid for their loyalty by getting laid off. They understand that the idea of “lifetime employment” is little more than a myth today.

Couple that with the job prospects for college graduates and we have a formula for an age of discouragement. I have read different studies that anywhere from 25% and 36% of college graduates are unemployed or under employed in a job that doesn’t require a college degree.

The other side of the coin isn’t pretty either. As I alluded to in earlier content, those that have worked through the Great Recession have been beaten around with the “We need to do more with less” syndrome. I’ve seen people that are working that are much more stressed than some that are unemployed.

Add to that the mal-employed, a word I learned earlier this decade. Apparently the mal-employed is a category of worker that has a job but at a level far below his or her abilities — like a PhD in nuclear physics working in a grade school scraping gum off of the bottom of desks. I recently heard of a business that has three former CEOs employed in positions below the executive rung of the org-chart. Do you think those folks care about the plight of Millennials?

It’s difficult to empathize, or even sympathize, when we’re dealing with our own issues. However, if we don’t start caring at least a little bit we’re going to be in big trouble sooner rather than later with a disillusioned and ill-prepared pool for future jobs.

When I was in my 20’s I was disillusioned and ill-prepared too, even with a quality degree from a respected university. Fortunately around the time I turned 23, I found a job at a place where supervisors and executives weren’t just managers. They were leaders and mentors that embraced those roles.

Here are a few tips to mentor the Millennials on your team.

  • Remember the “Seven Habits” — The late Stephen Covey gave us a blueprint for much of the help we need in the workplace now. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It’s not all about you. Learn to listen again. Find out what your mentee’s aspirations and fears are. Until you understand, you can’t help.
  • Accept that your mentee may not work there long — I used to hear in the late 80’s “I don’t want to train people too much because they will just take that knowledge and go work somewhere else.” That may be true but if we don’t teach our workers properly we’ll never get anywhere close to 100% productivity out of our people. Furthermore, there is a social responsibility to be a mentor because everyone needs one at some point in their careers.
  • “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” — This quote from Richard Branson really rings true today. Everyone wants to be respected but I think this is especially true for Millennials. The attitude, which I witness way too often, of “They should just be happy they actually have a job!” does nothing but create a toxic culture.

Finding the time and the energy to mentor, rather than just barking orders, is not easy for a manager or an owner. But that is what is needed today and that is the foundation of true leadership. Give it a try. In the process you may even find the cathartic help you need.

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