6 Tips for Developing a Mentorship Program That Keeps Millennial Employees Growing

Millennials are likeier to stay with a company that helps them learn, advance and prosper.

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By John Boitnott


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The next generation of workers is already present in today's business world, with millennials now serving as the largest group in the American labor force. While experts have identified personality traits that are common with this generation, Chris Cabrera, founder of San Jose software company Xactly, has learned much of what he knows through developing coaching programs for his millennial employees.

Perhaps the most common characteristic he's seen with his millennial employees is a general impatience to get ahead. He says by helping them prepare for their future, his company has been able to increase retention rates and improve job satisfaction.

"It's part of this culture, I think, where everyone's just looking to get ahead so fast and so furiously that they forget to enjoy the ride, look for inflection points that they can improve their career, be a sponge, find mentors, things like that," Cabrera said. "We coach them to be patient, and we coach them that they're winning, and we coach them to be a sponge and look for these inflections points."

Mentorship and coaching can make a big difference in a millennial's longevity with a company. Here are a few tips to help you develop a successful mentorship program for your business.

Provide benefits to mentors.

If you hope to attract outside mentors to coach your employees, you'll need an incentive for them to participate. Create a program that emphasizes the career benefits of being involved, including access to your own network. If you're asking for a great deal of time from them, you may want to offer equity in your company or a small stipend.

Understand the mentee.

Your employees are a big part of your program, so it's important to learn as much as possible about what guidance and advice they need. Interview each participant, and do your best to match each person with a mentor who can help reach their goals.

Related: 4 Strategies to Connect With Millennials

Focus on employee independence.

The goal of any mentorship program is to help mentees develop habits that will help them learn and grow. Instead of forcing your own opinions and approaches on mentees, mentors should explain their own approach then help mentees find their own work style. Research has uncovered many differences between millennials and previous generations so it's important to respect their own unique way of approaching a task.

Expand to include other employees.

As important as it is to nurture your millennial staff, there's a problem with offering a mentorship program to one group of people within your organization and not the others. Millennials may feel as though they're being singled out and the remaining employees might feel abandoned. Instead, create a program that everyone can benefit from.

Related: How to Motivate Millennials, By Millennials

Check progress.

Once your program is in place, regularly analyze results through surveys and one-on-one conversations with participants. Mentees will likely tell you what needs to be changed to make the program better. They'll also see that you care about what they're getting out of the program.

Explore growth opportunities.

In addition to mentorship, always search for promising opportunities for continued learning and networking within your industry. Send your millennial employees to industry conferences and local networking events. If you're reserving attendance at those functions for upper management, your millennial employees may feel as though there's no opportunity for growth in your organization, at which point they'll look for a position elsewhere.

Related: 3 Tips For Finding a Mentor

Mentorship programs can help ambitious millennials thrive in the workplace. Perhaps more important, though, is the way they help businesses. When employees feel as though their employers are personally invested in their career success, they're more likely to stay with a company and work hard to help it grow. This starts with creating an environment in which millennials can continue to learn while also regularly checking to ensure they're getting what they need from that environment.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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