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How Mentoring Programs Help Shape Future Leaders
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
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Financial executives are bullish on Millennials. In a recent Robert Half survey, 85 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) said they are confident Millennials—those born between 1978 and 1999—at their company are prepared to assume leadership positions. However, an area where companies are lacking is providing mentoring programs to prepare this next generation of business leaders.

When it comes to mentoring programs, there is a disconnect among finance leaders. In separate research from Accountemps, 86 percent of CFOs said having a mentor is important. Yet only a slim majority of CFOs (55 percent) reported that their organizations offer formal mentoring.  And, while this survey focused on the finance function, the recommendations are equally relevant to other functions and industries.

Mentoring Programs Help Cement Millennials as Future Leaders

Millennials deserve to be—and need to be—cultivated as leaders. They now represent the largest share of the American labor force, according to a Pew Research Center report, and will represent 40 percent of workers by 2020.

As Baby Boomers retire in accelerating numbers, succession planning is vital. And mentoring should be a key component of these plans. The advantages include:

  • providing Millennials with dedicated role models 
  • helping Millennials identify long-term career goals 
  • unlocking a network of contacts.

Tapping the expertise of seasoned workers as mentors can be a catalyst to help professionals advance their careers.

Millennials Seek Out Companies That Provide a Path to Advancement

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There is a stereotype that this generation comprises demanding employees who want things their way, on their terms. Generalizations aside, Millennials expect more from their employers. They also expect more from themselves and are willing to work just as hard as—if not harder than—previous generations.

Millennials are a highly educated, passionate group who are interested in work that provides meaningful growth in both their personal and professional lives. Their values and preferences make them a great match for mentoring, including their desire for:

  • ongoing learning and professional development 
  • meaningful and purposeful work (rather than just salary and title) 
  • frequent, career-centered feedback 
  • inclusive, collaborative styles of management 
  • fulfilling personal relationships on the job.

Mentoring the Individual, With Professional Growth in Your Sights

“We live in a world that expects mass customization,” said career coach and author Michael S. Seaver. “A one-size-fits-all culture is not going to inspire [Millennials] to contribute their talents. In short, they want a customized work environment—and personalized careers.”

The takeaway: Allow for customization and tailored training in your mentoring programs. Design programs that take into account mentees’ individual goals, preferences, and communication styles, and let mentees actively participate in crafting their own mentor relationships.

Here are a few tips for developing a meaningful mentoring program.

  • Empower Millennials. Ask them at the outset what they hope to achieve from their mentoring, and what characteristics in a mentor they would find valuable. Consider allowing mentees to conduct phone interviews with potential mentoring partners. And allow them to switch if the relationship is not productive. 
  • Establish expectations. It’s important not only for mentees to get what they want, but also for the program to perform as expected. Explain that mentees need to come to meetings with their mentor prepared (so do mentors, for that matter). Remind mentees to express gratitude.  
  • Consider personality. Just because a Millennial aspires to be a CFO, for example, that does not mean that the current CFO will be the ideal mentor. Explore the behavioral and communication styles and motivations of both mentors and mentees to ensure they are a good fit. You can do this by providing a brief questionnaire to each. 
  • Support tailored interactions. Instead of establishing a fixed set of requirements, such as a weekly meeting or a monthly lunch, let both parties work out the details of their meetings. They should agree on expectations of behavior, time commitment, and communication channels. 
  • Cultivate meaning and purpose. Millennials crave purpose and meaning. Ask both mentors and mentees to write down their hopes and objectives before the mentoring begins. As the relationship is nearing its conclusion, ask them to reflect, again in writing, on what they have gained and how they’d like to celebrate their successes. 
  • Support reverse mentoring. Because Millennials often resist hierarchies, consider making them mentors too. Reverse mentoring has many of the same benefits as the traditional models and also will help your Millennial staff.

Mentoring programs provide a set of tools for training Millennials to advance in your company. To fortify the path from cubicle to corner office, more organizations ought to consider establishing mentor program relationships as a central part of their professional development platform.
To learn more about how to establish an effective mentoring program, join us live online for Developing a Mentoring Program

 

About the Author
DeLynn Senna, CPA, is the executive director of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world's first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. In her role, she leads Robert Half Finance & Accounting’s global operations, including defining brand positioning, working with executive and field leadership across five continents to develop growth strategies and operating processes, and shaping and promoting the company’s vision internally and externally.
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