6 ways to give millennials the mentorship programs they want

Traditional corporate mentorships just don't cut it for today's millennial workers. Younger employees seek meaningful and time-efficient relationships with senior colleagues. These six expert tips can help organizations understand millennial wants and needs, and create more effective mentor programs.

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4. DIY mentoring options for millennials

Managers and executives may not be able to dedicate as much time as they'd like to mentorships, and not all millennials want regular check-in meetings to invade their calendars. Thankfully, giving and receiving mentoring tips doesn't have to take a lot of time. Our Corporate Life's Mitchell says a company she works with created a podcast with one of its executives to give millennials on-demand mentoring tips. "Rather than a one-off or a lunch and learn, record it and use it on the intranet. It's learning on your own time." Mitchell also suggests getting key managers and executives to use social media to answer questions from younger employees.

Dessau's website, 3 Minute Mentor, provides three-minute videos that offer quick career advice. He says the short length fits millennials well because of their fast-moving habits around social media and technology.

5. External mentorship opportunities for millennials and employers

Many millennials like to network outside of their organizations, and companies can and should help facilitate external mentoring opportunities. Millennials may form mentorships outside of the corporate walls via social networks, events or external programs. Dessau says external mentorships can provide career guidance and potential future job opportunities.

[Related: How to Help Millennials Prepare to Be Successful Leaders]

Toyota Financial Services (TFS) partners with the STEM Advantage program, which provides career opportunities and mentoring in science, technology, engineering and math to women and underserved communities. TFS hires interns through the program and pairs them with its executives for mentorships. TFS CIO Ron Guerrier says being involved in STEM Advantage keeps him and his IT department up to date on what millennials want. "We as an organization can learn from them," he says. "We've invited them to innovation labs, and they're educating us on how they think. There are benefits on both sides."

6. Help millennial mentees help themselves

Millennials sometimes expect mentors to tell them what to do, but the experience will be more valuable for both sides if millennials have specific goals in mind. The preparation doesn't have to take a lot of time, and simply outlining a few points, writing down a few questions or thinking of specific objectives can completely transform meetings, according to Mitchell. "Be prepared when you come into a mentor relationship," she says. "It's not that people don't want to help you, but they need to know what you need."

Millennials should not only know to plan for mentor meetings, but their organizations should help them think about how to best use the time during meetings and reflect on it afterwards. Companies should let millennials know that it's OK to say no to mentorships if they're not the right fit, or end a meeting if it's not productive. The ability to acknowledge and accept the fact that a mentorship isn't useful anymore is an important step. Many companies require mentorship programs to last for a set amount of time, but not all mentor-to-mentee arrangements are productive for that long.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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