Coaching and Mentoring a Millennial Workforce

The Days of Sink or Swim Have Come and Gone

Millennials are a generation shaping a rapidly changing workforce and forcing cultural transformations within organizations. Standard, rigid, and, frankly, de-humanized approaches to employee relations and, especially onboarding, are likely to see your 20 something new hire walking out the door feeling unvalued.  If a company’s idea of filling a position is to throw a new hire directly into a position, walk off, and expect that person to be successful? The company can expect high turnover, an overwhelmed human resources division, low over all morale, and an HR department that spends its time and budget on recruitment and not internal development. Sink or swim is just not an effective, and downright, disastrous practice.

Educated, geographically mobile, curious, passionate and with a sense of their self-worth are a few words and phrases that accurately describe Millennials. They know they have options for employment and have no problem leaving a company that doesn’t support and value their abilities or invest in their professional development. Coaching and mentoring a Millennial is a vital process for training, retaining and developing the talent brought onboard.

Utilizing the knowledge and skills of embedded employees to productively educate a new hire in the culture and processes of a company is a pathway to success.

Coming from a military background, I am very familiar with a largely youthful workforce entering organizations with a great deal of hope, ambition and, yes, confusion. Navigating the complexities of a new command was a real challenge for the thousands of 20 somethings I engaged with daily while working for the Navy. I had a big takeaway from my experience with the U.S. Navy. There is a commitment to extensive, ongoing training and the best commands maintain mission readiness while seeing personnel rotating in, often with no prior experience of a command’s operation.

The secret to command success is mentoring and coaching. Here’s an old expression but, it spells out the Navy philosophy; sea daddy. A sea daddy was someone who volunteered to take a new “employee” under their wing and teach them the ropes. While the term is dated, the Navy still effectively and consistently believes in sponsoring, mentoring and coaching new personnel by matching them with a more senior, seasoned person in their department to introduce and indoctrinate them to their new command, culture and processes. Bottom line? It works. Commands that use this model see more personnel stay for careers because they feel valued, confident in their abilities to perform successfully, and have the guidance they need to plan a career path.

Millennials are not the only ones who benefit from senior leadership being a mentor to them. Veteran employees also find mentoring a way to stay “fresh,” engaged and professionally don’t stagnate as they are introduced to new technology, ideas and perspectives. A right match, knowledge base and willingness are critical. Effective mentors have a commitment to company success and a belief in passing on their wisdom and knowledge to the up and coming. They believe that cultivating potential contributes to the success of an organization and its people.

Develop a volunteer program and cache of mentor/leaders to coach and lead from the first day and throughout an employee’s career with the company. Make it clear to new hires and all employees that this resource is available and more than open to providing coaching and mentorship. Employees with aspirations and motivation will take advantage of mentorship as they are committed to their professional development.

Truly, no one wants to be ignored, or be just another body in a chair. Millennials, in particular, have a need to be valued, recognized and if they are, they’ll in turn invest in their company. Millennials want to like and respect their organization. The personalized attention coaching and mentoring offers shows a commitment to their development as future leaders and respect for what they can offer. It will also ensure they stay engaged, stay longer and become the skilled, inspired leaders of tomorrow.

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