Bhakta David Nollmeyer
The need to replenish human resources is a key to an organization's success. Mentoring is a key to achieving this goal. Historically, Mentor was the son of Alcumus who entrusted his son to Odysseus when he left to fight the Trojan War. Mentor has come to mean a more trusted teacher, friend or experienced person (Trower 2009). In consideration of this, it is imperative that the more experienced take initiatives to advance the growth of the new and developing corps. In considering how to engage your workforce leveraging the differences between generations is advisable. The two older generations are the Traditionalists (1922 1945) and Boomers (1946 1964). The Generation X (1965 1980) and the Millennials (1981 2000) are just developing in the workforce (Triple Creek 2009).
Currently in 2005 these are the percentages in the work force:
It is apparent that the Traditionalists are moving aside and the Boomers are about to assert themselves. The later is the generation of President Barack Obama and Representative Mary Bono Mack both Tweeners born in 1961.
In view of this, it most likely that the Tradionalists and Boomers are the mentors. Here are some characteristic of Tradionalists. Tradionalists have a core expression of hard work and loyalty. Their work ethic is one of dedication. Boomers have a core expression that reflects participation and are workaholics. Their work ethic is being driven. Traditionalists have a work engagement of chain of command, trust and authority. Their rewards are appreciation and honorable retirement. Boomers have a work engagement of teamwork, trust and consensus. They are concerned with status and money (Martin & Tulgan 2006).
When mentoring protégés that are Generation X it is best to be aware that these individuals prefer a casual and friendly work environment. They enjoy flexibility freedom and a place to learn. The Millennial worker prefers a more structured supportive work environment. Personalized work, interactive relationships are favored. Millennials do not shy away from high demands or high expectations (Triple Creek 2009).
Generation X emerged as latchkey kids. Parents were divorced. This culture witnessed the tough times their parents endured. Many entered the workforce in the 1980s downturn. These individuals are loyal to their work, to their team members, and their boss. These persons have developed traits of independence, resilience and adaptability, "I don't need someone looking over my shoulder," (Scheef & Thiefoldt 2004).
Effective mentoring of Generation X is hands off. Giving feedback on performance is positive. Encouraging creativity and initiative aids in the accomplishment of goals. Having Xers work with you as a team by informing them of what is expected and how their progress will be graded. Be sure to show your commitment to their success. A good is approach is to present what is desired and permit some creativity in accomplishing the job. This generation takes employment very seriously. Generation X moves in both vertical and horizontal directions up the career path (Thiefoldt & Scheef 2004).
The Millennials are the product of the most child centric period in history 1977 and 1998. Their parents have high expectations of them. Millennials are selfconfident and technologically literate. They are fluent in computers, cellphones, and electronic devices. Millennials however are new to the workplace. They are young professionals. They are responsive to mentoring and do not mind structure and stability. Mentoring Millennials can be more structured and with personal attention. Titles and position are not a negative to them. Millennials enjoy team orientation rather than pairing off. They are a group culture rather than individualistic. As multitaskers than are accustomed to having varied private, academic, sports, and social interests. A relationship with their boss is also viewed positively (Scheef & Thiefoldt 2004).
Generation Xers prefer to stay within one career but not necessarily within the same firm. They have a free agent orientation, and use computers. In contrast Millennials are not bound by one company or one career. They believe themselves to be entitled. Millennials were perceived to be the most protective generation until 9-11. They are the We Generation (Herrington). In 2014 over 70 million Baby Boomers will have retired (Trower 2009).
The Mentoring Environment
Formal mentoring permits institutions to adjust work, establish clear guidelines, and reward outstanding mentors (Brad 2007). It is a wise practice to have all senior employees contribute to mentoring. This can be seen also a key tool for further advancement and consolidation of careers. Mentoring should be seen as a valued activity that saves time, money and facilitates promotion. Measures should be established to gauge success. One should also promote these achievements (Herrington). Protégés should set expectations that are realistic. This can involve a mentoring network. Mentoring should be viewed as a career long process. The protégés should evaluate the system. Active mentoring permits one to instill in the future the positive traits of the past, Herrington states,"No one is allowed to fall through the cracks," (Herrington).
The mentees will need to adapt through a process of uncertainty reduction. This involves role clarity, social acceptance, and self efficacy. Role clarity and social acceptance reflect job satisfaction commitment, and institutional acceptance. Self efficacy reflects one's intention to remain and turnover (Baur et al. 2007). Brad has stated that mentorships build enduring personal relationships and are reciprocal relationships. By serving as models the mentors provide mentees with social and emotional support (Brad 2007).
Levinson states that one should learn the institutional politics,"...who holds power and what are the significant dynamics that might impact protégés" and "Norms, standards, values, ideology, history, and heroes heroines of the institution these comprise the psychological contract or implicit expectations of the institution" (Levinson 2007). A good mentor should point out the skills and competencies needed to advance. Paths and blind alleys should be made clear. What are the self defeating traits and behaviors ( Levinson 2007)?
The mentees should remain proactive understanding what the mentor wishes. Commitments should be kept and deadlines met. Strive for superior performance. Be open to feedback. Be responsive to coaching. Keep your communications honest and straight forward. Be realistic in your expectations and maintain a sense of humor (Brad 2007).
Successfully mentoring Generation X and Millennials entails understanding the culture from which they emerged and their values collectively and individually. Engaging a culture that embraces continuity through the passing of skills from one generation to the next is the sign of a mature system of excellence. Different eras have shaped natural humans in different manners but this is not exclusive. The development of a quality workforce and work environment can be successful by guiding the unfolding talents of both Xers and Millennials. Understanding individual identities, social support, personal goals, and education will facilitate a positive experience (Trower 2009).
Training both mentors and mentees is a continuing process. Setting realistic benchmarks and measurements builds success. This means having strong communication and feedback skills. Documenting the success of the mentoring process of Generation Xers and Millennials in an objective format reinforces to all the participants in the work group the progress and hurdles that were overcome in achieving skills and goals.
Mentoring Generation X or Millennials is a bridge to building the future.
Bauer, T.N., Bodner, T. Erdogan, B., Truxillo, D.M., and Tucker, J.S. (2007). Newcomer Adjustment During Organizational Socialization: A Meta-analysis of Antecedents, Outcomes, and Methods. Journal of Applied Psychology 92(3): 707-721.
Johnson, W. Brad (2007). On Being a Mentor. New York: Psychology Press, p. 21.
Levinson, D.J., Darrow, C.N., Klein, E.B., Levinson, M.H., & McKee, B. (1978). The Seasons of a Man's Life. New York: Ballentine.
Martin, C., Tulgan, B., (2006). Managing the Generation Mix. HRD Press.
Trower C. (2009). Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials: Giving and Getting the Mentoring You Want. Brown.
Scheef, D., Thiefold, D. (2004). Generation X and the Millennials: What You Need to Know About Entering the New Generations. American Bar Association. Retrieved July 13, 2011 from: http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt08044.html