How Baby-Boomers Can Effectively Coach and Mentor Millennials

There has been a great deal written and discussed about GenY and their soon to be dominance in the workplace. How are we (Baby-Boomers) to prepare them to run companies, marketing campaigns, and innovation labs? By effectively coaching and mentoring them!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics state that Baby-Boomers will hold an average of 3-5 jobs in their careers; GenX 11-15; and GenY 25+. Why is this? Many state that Millennials evidently are not getting the upward movement they believe they deserve and, therefore, feel compelled to change jobs. My take is different. I do not blame Millennials for this, but existing company business professionals for not mentoring and coaching them. They are not being taken under the wings of company managers and co-workers and led through the labyrinth of corporate bureaucracies. How can a new college recruit be expected to know the inner-workings of a large corporation? And this high-rate of turnover is extremely expensive for businesses. An article in INC magazine by Suzanne Lucas states: “What do all these costs add up to? Well how much? Estimates run as high as 150 percent of annual salary. Much less for lower level positions, but still significant enough to make retention a high priority for your business.” Most companies realize this, and have set up on-boarding programs, but they only go so far.

While an organization can set up formal mentoring programs, I believe “natural” connections work the best. What is the number one attribute of a good mentor? Listening! I’ve always subscribed to the idea that God gave you two ears and one mouth so you will listen twice as much as you speak. [This is especially true for successful sales people – they need to uncover the “real” needs of their customers before a sale is made.] You need to hear the challenges/concerns of the [typically] younger employee before you can assist them.

A common misconception is that a mentor has to be someone senior or in a higher management position; mentors can be peers, who may actually be better able to give hard-hitting advice. I also believe someone out of the direct chain of command will make a better mentor. Mentoring, while I believe works best in an informal setting, it needs to be done on a regular, consistent basis. Every month or every other month, depending on the assistance required. It should be done away from the workplace if possible, so you can give undivided attention. Mentoring takes time and commitment from both parties; make sure you set aside enough time so meetings are not rushed. Just as important as being mentored, is mentoring others – to play it forward. It can build your own character and give you insight to the organizational needs of others.

While coaching is similar to mentoring, I believe it is more of a process done in the chain-of-command. Both are extremely important to retain the best employees and reduce hiring costs.

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