The workforce is changing rapidly, and before long millennials will comprise more than half of all employees. At many companies across the United States, millennials already constitute the majority of all employees. Fortunately, this generation possesses a number of unique qualities that predispose them to becoming excellent leaders. At the same time, business leaders need to understand that relating to millennials is different from managing baby boomers. To that end, the approach to mentoring millennials and preparing them to assume leadership positions needs to shift. Some key tips for mentoring millennials and helping them to evolve into leaders include the following:
1. Create a more complete picture of real-world industry drivers.
Millennials grew up in a media-saturated world filled with conflicting messages and viral videos, so they have become accustomed to filtering out what is and is not useful to them. Similarly, success in business depends on looking past the extraneous and seeing what is really driving the markets. Business leaders need to ensure that millennials understand exactly what is driving their respective industries and how subtle changes can ripple through these drivers and create change. Since millennials are so adept at navigating through large amounts of information competing for their attention, they are uniquely positioned to understand how all of the different factors driving the industry relate to one another.
2. Demonstrate that good business depends on integrity.
As millennials were growing up, they witnessed more business scandals than any other generation in history. As a result, many millennials have an inherent distrust of business leaders. To counteract this, business leaders need to demonstrate integrity and demonstrate that their companies are interested in more than just the bottom line. Millennials have a deep concern for the world around them and a strong desire to make an impact. When they see that their businesses have a similar goal, they will become more motivated to help these companies succeed in the future.
3. Make use of opportunities for reverse mentoring with leaders.
Since millennials have a natural understanding of technology, many opportunities exist for reverse mentoring. For example, a millennial who shows great promise may help a senior executive understand how to promote ideas on social media more effectively. Such a program makes employees feel valuable while giving them a unique window into the lives of senior business leaders. Without even realizing it, millennials will learn a great deal about what it means to succeed in business and what it looks like to lead.
4. Show millennials how to find balance in their professional lives.
Great leaders need confidence, which is a difficult attribute to teach. Typically, confidence means having the right balance of character and courage. Finding this balance can prove difficult, which is why mentors play such a crucial role in developing confident employees. In addition to modeling the right balance, business leaders should engage with millennials about their own values and views on their world so that they can find their voice. Ultimately, this work will help millennials to build stronger business relationships and encourage them to take on new challenges that will further build character.
5. Investigate creative approaches to the mentor-mentee relationship.
Connective technologies have opened up a wide range of new possibilities for the mentor-mentee relationship, and millennials often enjoy exploring these unique approaches. For example, anonymous mentoring has started to become popular. The approach matches mentees with people outside of their organization based on background reviews and psychological profiles. Mentors typically include executives and professional coaches. All of the exchanges occur online, and both individuals generally remain anonymous. Anonymous mentoring can help individuals to broach particularly sensitive subjects that could hold them back in the long run and overcome those hurdles. Another option is micro-mentoring, which involves creating mentorship relationships with several different people for brief periods of time.
6. Place an emphasis on strong moral development and ethics.
Tomorrow’s leaders will need a strong moral fiber to guide their business decisions, and millennials often have a natural interest in business ethics. Rather than skirting around these sensitive topics, business leaders should challenge their millennial employees to think outside the box and help them to develop an ethical reflex that will allow them to respond quickly to challenging situations. Developing a strong moral compass will also help budding business leaders. They should be transparent about the business decisions that they make and push their employees to understand why they chose the specific paths that they did.
7. Engage with the millennial drive for lifelong learning.
Since millennials largely grew up with the Internet at their fingertips, they realize that they have immediate access to information. For many millennials, the ease of learning has translated into a lifelong passion for acquiring new knowledge. Business leaders should provide constant challenges for their promising millennial employees to help them obtain a better sense of the industry and develop critical technical knowledge. Through this approach, millennials can contribute meaningfully to their employers, become more confident, and get a better sense of where their personal strengths and weaknesses lie, which can help to guide them in future project assignments.