Why Workplace Mentors Are So Important

Julie Shenkman
Posted by in Human Resources

When it comes to leadership development, employers have a looming dilemma ahead. Many millennials who are advancing toward leadership roles aren't sticking around to benefit their organizations. Millennials actively seek career mentors for guidance, and their dedication and loyalty suffer when they lack support from strong role models at work. Proactive mentoring enables employers to understand employee priorities and cultivate a highly skilled workforce that is committed to the company's growth and sustainability.

Why Career Mentors Are Essential

Employers who assume that millennials are needy and entitled are inclined to misread their desire for feedback and coaching as something negative. However, asking for direction is a sign that workers want to continually improve performance and efficiency, rather than go through the motions without knowing how their efforts impact the company's success. In a 2016 Deloitte survey of millennials in 29 countries, 63 percent of respondents said their employers weren't fully developing their leadership skills. The study also showed that millennials are most loyal to companies that prioritize employee growth and well-being, and they are less likely to stay with an employer if they believe the company cares about maximizing profits above all else.

Providing career mentors is one way to convey company values to the next generation of leaders while gradually increasing their responsibilities. In the Deloitte study, 25 percent of respondents expected to leave their employers within one year, and those who planned to remain with the same employer for at least five years were twice as likely to have a mentor. Career mentors have a significant impact on how millennials view an employer overall, coaching them on how to navigate the company culture and discover their unique expertise and purpose. A career mentor also gains a firsthand look at the individual's strengths and weakness, making it easier to address skills gaps.

Implementing Large-Scale Mentorships

Giving workers opportunities to assume leadership with supervision before they move up to management roles ensures competency and keeps them invested in shared goals. While traditional one-on-one and group mentoring are most common, employers can create tailored strategies to leverage the skills and expertise of employees at every level. For example, reverse mentoring empowers junior workers to share in-demand skills, such as social media management, with senior peers, increasing mutual respect and learning. Harvard Business Review profiled the emerging method of assigning anonymous career mentors, which eliminates geographical barriers and, surprisingly, increases openness and transparency.

Even when employers have limited means to implement large-scale mentoring, they can still take charge of leadership development by arranging mentorships outside the company. To match millennials with the right opportunities, senior leaders can even manage networks of alumni, clients and partners who are interested in fostering young talent. Millennials often need help finding willing career mentors with effective coaching skills. By acting as facilitators, employers demonstrate their commitment to each employee's career growth, boosting trust, loyalty and engagement.

Millennials are driving a major cultural shift, proving that job satisfaction, work-life balance and career growth are just as important as salary. Career mentors are an attractive, low-cost perk that can make a workplace more appealing than the competition. Companies that start coaching millennials now may reap the benefits of their leadership talent for years to come.

Photo courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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