Demystifying Millennials at Work

Millennials are misunderstood as both customers and employees:

  • Their attention spans aren’t shorter than that of a goldfish. The “fact” that people now concentrate for one second less than a goldfish is a fun sound bite, but it isn’t based on actual research. If anything, Millennials are better at filtering and processing the information they do find.

  • They’re not mercenary job hoppers. Sure, Millennials have shorter job tenure—but that’s because they’re younger, not because they’re fundamentally disloyal. In fact, the average tenure for workers in their 20s nowis the same as it was in the 1980’s.

  • They don’t expect to be the boss from Day One. But they do want to get there eventually: career development is the number one preferred benefit from employers. Yes, even above financial incentives.

Of course, this is just a short list—we’d venture that if you sat down with some of the Millennials within your company, you’d be surprised by their insights into their peer group. But if your leadership team is made of mostly Gen X’ers and Boomers, it’s easy to overlook them. Fortunately, there’s a very simple solution: set up a “reverse mentorship” program, in which Millennial mentors are paired with Senior Leadership mentees:

  1. Establish the goals of the program. Determine what topic you want participants to focus on, such as increasing the Senior Leadership team's digital savvy. You should also identify metrics early on—what qualifies as a success?

  2. Find a champion. An influential person in the organization can help encourage participation, sign off on program needs, and help navigate obstacles.

  3. Recruit mentees and mentors. Reach out to mentees first, so you know how many mentors you need to recruit (if you have unmatched mentors, they may be less enthusiastic the next time you ask for volunteers). Use an application process and be selective—you want to find people who are top performers, liked by peers, and most importantly, committed to change.

  4. Provide pairs with the right support. Don’t expect mentors and mentees to just dive in. Instead, provide them with tips on how to foster a relationship, develop a timeline for activities, and give them tools and help as needed.

  5. Review and adjust. After your first round of mentoring, gather participants together and review your metrics to determine what went well—and what needs to be improved—before running a second round.

Not only do reverse mentorships give your leadership team firsthand knowledge of their younger teams and customers, they offer Millennials the leadership training they want.


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