Mentoring Millennials

Written by Veronica Craker, Managing Editor & Writer

Corporate employee

Determining the proper way to train and lead a millennial is a common concern for many business owners. How do you hire and retain the generation that grew up so different from your own? Before we take a deeper look at the millennial worker we must first identify who millennials are exactly.

Millennials were born between 1980 and 1995. They watch YouTube videos on iPads, they use multiple social media sites and prefer talking via text message. Studies have shown they aren’t too keen on leaving voicemails.

And for the past decade or so millennials have been given a bad rap. Some call them the “We Generation” believing them to be lazy and entitled. But that isn’t always the case. In fact, members of the millennial age group have shown great leadership and entrepreneurial skills. They are the generation that brought us Facebook, Dropbox, Blue Apron and even Airbnb.

It is important to remember that this young group of scrappy go-getters aren’t just entering the workforce —they are the workforce. According to a survey conducted by PayScale.com, they account for 45 percent of the workforce. In comparison, Baby Boomers account for 31 percent and Generation X’ers (those born between 1961 and 1979) make up only 21 percent. The final three percent comes from the Silent Generation, which are seniors 68 years and older.

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So how are these different groups with different life experiences supposed to work well together? Let’s begin by taking a look at some common problems that arise when hiring a millennial and how you can remedy the issue.

One-on-one Training

The problem: They’re green. Or to use a term millennials are more comfortable with —they’re “newbs.” They might have a few years of real work experience under their belt, but it can’t hold a candle to the 20 or so years many of their colleagues have.

The Fix: Tit for Tat mentoring. Find a seasoned team member you can partner them with as part of a mentorship program. Choose someone whose opinion you value, but who doesn’t work in the same department as your new hire. It needs to be someone the millennial can learn from, but also isn’t afraid to make mistakes in front of. Mentoring doesn’t have to be one-sided. Allow the millennial to teach their “mentor” a few new things and both employees will benefit from the experience.

Being Supportive

The problem: They need constant reassurance. This is the generation where everyone got a participation trophy and were constantly being told how “special” they are. So what happens when they are no longer shining stars? Will they be able to handle the stress of balancing work life and personal life?

The fix: Look, we can’t all be Beyoncé. However, millennials aren’t alone in wanting an “attaboy.” Everyone likes to know they are doing a good job and everyone can benefit from consistent feedback. A simple solution is to check in on your young employee and make sure they’re satisfied with their work. Remember, they prefer a boss who is more of a coach than a dictator.

Encourage them to Invest

The problem: They aren’t loyal. This one actually has some statistics to back its authenticity. According to the PayScale report about a quarter of millennials surveyed said workers shouldn’t be expected to stay in a job a year or less, before looking for a new position. That’s a stark contrast to the 41 percent of Baby Boomers who believe you should be with a job for at least five years before moving on.

The fix: Help them grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to guarantee career advancement. Instead, look at growth as a way to provide additional skillsets to your new hire. When employees get bored in their work they’re more likely to move on, but challenged and motivated employees typically stick around for the long haul.

While there may be drawbacks to hiring millennials, there are also plenty of advantages. Millennials are flexible and approach their job with an open mind. Very rarely will you ever hear them say “because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Also, they aren’t afraid of emerging technologies. Technology is changing at a rapid pace and no one understands this more than millennials. They’ve been using computers since they could sit up and are able to adapt to new software. What’s even better is they can turn around and teach your older workforce how to use it.

For additional resources to help you work alongside millennials consider checking out Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World by David D. Burstein and the Harvard Business Review’s article on Mentoring Millennials.

For fun, here’s a quick 15 question QUIZ created by the Pew Research Center that figures out just how “Millennial You Are.”

For the record, I scored a 76.

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