5 Ways to Make Mentoring Meaningful to Millennials

By Robert Half February 16, 2018 at 8:00am
In many respects, millennial finance and accounting professionals aren’t much different from their baby boomer and Generation X counterparts. They want to be treated with respect and recognized for their contributions on the job. They value professional development and career advancement. And they want the opportunity to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
 
Millennial professionals also have some different expectations about their work experience. For one, they seek continuous training and feedback. Meeting those expectations can be a challenge for busy managers. But a mentoring program that pairs seasoned employees with millennial staff can help finance leaders ensure team members from Generation Y and Generation Z are receiving the one-on-one attention and guidance they seek.
 
These arrangements must be well-thought-out and relevant, however, if they are to have a positive and lasting impact on millennial employees — and on those who are serving as mentors. These five tips can help you develop a mentoring program that will be meaningful to everyone involved:

1. Allow mentees to share opinions and ideas freely

Millennials tend to view company leaders more as colleagues or partners than bosses. For them, a meaningful mentoring relationship is not top-down, where they are empty vessels ready to be filled with knowledge. Rather, they want to be heard.
 
So, when establishing a mentoring program for millennial accounting and finance staff, look for mentors who are comfortable with a flatter hierarchy. Also, encourage them to give mentees plenty of opportunities to offer feedback and make suggestions for improvement.

2. Shake up the routine

Variety is the spice of the mentoring life. That’s why mentors need to think about ways to move beyond conversations and identify opportunities for their mentees to engage in hands-on learning.
 
For example, millennial mentees could shadow their mentors for a day. Or, they could observe senior-level meetings to understand what goes into executive decision-making. Mentors could also introduce or connect their protégés with other leaders and influencers in the company or invite them to business networking events to help them enlarge their circle of contacts.
 
Assigning projects to mentees that will help them to stretch their abilities and develop their business acumen and big-picture thinking is also good practice. Just make sure they already have the core skills (and the time) to take on any special assignments.

3. Keep it alive

Effective mentoring requires regular interaction between the mentor and mentee. But after the initial few meetings, it can be easy for both parties to let the mentoring relationship slide. People get busy. And as workloads rise and deadlines loom, mentoring relationships can get pushed to the back burner.
 
So, be sure to encourage mentor partners to check in often with each other through in-person meetings, phone calls or video chat. They should also follow a structured schedule for touching base, at least initially. For added motivation, you could make such meetings — both scheduled and impromptu — a metric on which staff members are evaluated during performance reviews.

4. Set an ‘expiration date’

While some mentorships can last for many years, most have a formal ending. It’s a good idea to determine up front how long the formal portion of a mentoring relationship will last.
 
Typical mentorships run from three months to a year. In some cases, the relationship will end earlier — either because it wasn’t productive for one or both parties, or because the objective was met ahead of schedule. The mentor should jot down notes about what aspects of the relationship worked well and what did not.
 
During the final meeting, celebrate all that the mentee has learned and, if appropriate, make sure their achievements receive broader recognition at the firm.

5. Explore nontraditional arrangements

Everyone is familiar with the classic mentoring relationship in the business world: an experienced employee helps an up-and-coming colleague to “learn the ropes.” However, you might want to break with tradition and consider having millennials mentor their Gen X and baby boomer colleagues.
 
Reverse mentoring can be empowering for millennial workers because it allows them to share their fresh insights, social media savvy and more. Peer mentoring, where colleagues who work at similar levels in the company pair up to share professional feedback and advice, can be rewarding, too.
 
Serving as a mentor also gives millennials the opportunity to refine soft skills, such as communication, and develop their leadership abilities. (In a recent survey by our company, 38 percent of CFOs said the opportunity to build leadership skills is the greatest benefit of being a mentor.)

Help everyone on your team to grow

Even though their work styles, preferences and expectations may differ, baby boomer, Gen X and millennial professionals generally seek the same things: to have satisfying careers, to be allowed to work to their full potential, and to be compensated appropriately for their contributions.
 
Keeping those core needs and aspirations in focus will help you to manage every employee on your accounting and finance team more effectively and ensure that every worker has an opportunity to learn — and share their knowledge.

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