What do millennials value most? According to a recent white paper from Grovo, it’s development, meaning they want “training, career advancement, and opportunities for growth.” Millennials want to climb the corporate ladder, although they believe they can shorten that ladder with the right skills. A 2012 study called “No Collar Workers” found that 89% of millennials think it is important to constantly learn on the job. In its white paper, Grovo outlines three key focus areas for improving millennial development: daily training, customized training and mentorships.
You’re probably thinking, “OK, here comes the pitch from the customized training sales girl,” but that’s actually not what I want to write about today. What I want to share is my experience with Paradigm Learning’s mentoring program, which has been in existence for more than two years now. It has not only made a difference for me professionally and personally but it is having a positive impact across our entire organization. Our Engagement Team started the program for two reasons: (1) requests for one that came from our employee survey and (2) research indicating the positive impact that mentoring has on organizational culture.
Mentoring programs have been shown to have multiple benefits, which include improving engagement, high-potential retention, organizational culture, leadership development and generational gaps. In 2012, shortly before we developed our program, 25% of organizations were offering mentoring programs (up from 5% in 2007, pre-Great Recession). Research also shows that mentoring during the onboarding process increases ramp-up and culture acclimation. In addition, the “No Collar Workers” survey found that three-fourths of millennials want a mentor. Needless to say, I was one of those millennials.
We started our mentoring program by coming up with a list of potential mentees and mentors. One of my colleagues, who had been at Paradigm Learning for a few years and worked in different departments, paired us up. The Engagement Team created the following guidelines for the program:
- Mentors were to help employees with their careers, in their roles in general at the company, and personally.
- Mentors were not to train mentees on specific, day-to-day job tasks. (We paired teams up from different departments to minimize the chances of this occurring.)
- Mentors were to encourage and empower their mentee – not go to bat for them.
- Meetings would be bi-weekly.
- Mentors and mentees had an understanding that either side could choose a new assignment after one quarter of working together.
I thank my lucky stars I was paired with our then-President (now COO). Our boomer-millennial, mentor-mentee relationship has been invaluable to me. My mentor smoothed my transition from accounting to sales, and he suggested that I take on a leadership role on our Engagement Team. We have routine check-ins about how to elevate myself in our organization, and he helped me navigate my new position that I was promoted into late last year. He’s also up to date on my personal life and asks thoughtful questions about me as a person, so I know he cares. Without our meetings, I would not be as engaged in my role.
Now new employees at Paradigm Learning are encouraged to get a mentor right away. Although I was not ready to be a mentor two years ago, I am currently paired with one of our new interns. Thanks to the help of my mentor, I feel confident now in my ability to contribute. After all, I’ve learned from a great one!