Mentoring the Millennial Generation: Advice for Senior Female Executives

girlpowerBy Michelle Hendelman, Editor-in-Chief

What is the best way to find out what makes NextGen employees tick? Ask them. This is exactly what PwC, along with the University of Southern California and The London Business School did in their groundbreaking study, PwC’s NextGen: a global generational study [PDF]. With over 40,000 responses collected and 18 global territories represented, this study identifies the attitudes, perceptions, mentality and overall work preferences of the next generation of the world’s workforce – Millennials.

Although Millennials and non-Millennials hold many similar viewpoints about flexible schedules, the ability to work occasionally from home, and the importance of healthy work/life balance, it seems as though PwC’s NextGen study reveals one important difference between Millennials and the generations before them. Millennials are not as inclined to make big sacrifices in their personal lives in order to climb the corporate rungs at work.

In fact, according to the study, 15% of all male employees and 21% of all female employees would accept less pay and extend the pace of their personal career advancement to work fewer hours. The study also suggests, however, that Millennials value different contributing factors to their personal advancement. What is the impact of these findings?

“Millennials are not afraid of working hard,” says Terri McClements, US Human Capital Leader for PwC, “it’s that the experience is equally important to them as putting in the hours it takes to achieve a certain title or role.”

While the results of the NextGen study have the potential to significantly affect workplace culture as corporate leaders adapt to accommodate the needs of this emerging workforce majority in an effort to improve employee retention and create effective talent development programs, the real impact just might be felt in the mentor/mentee relationships between non-Millennial senior level executives and Millennials.

This is especially true in the case of senior level female executives who choose to act as mentors to Gen Y rising stars within their company. With Millennial attitudes differing from non-Millennials in some key areas, how can these two generations of female workers connect in a way that is meaningful and beneficial for everyone involved, including the company?

Mind the Gap

Perhaps the most effective way for senior level female executives to forge strong mentor relationships with talented Millennials is to be aware of the NextGen mindset yet continue to emphasize the importance of a solid work ethic and a passionate commitment to their work. There is an undeniable gap between Millennials and non-Millennials at work. However, the intention of senior level mentors should not be to bridge the gap, but rather to acknowledge the generational differences, embrace the increasing pace of a changing corporate culture, and work to develop new talent within the context of the paradigm shift.

McClements says, “The study helps inform us, and should inform others, of the kind of relationships and behaviors that Millennials expect. What this study showed for us was the importance of personal connections and the importance of having an emotional attachment, not just to the organization but to people within the organization.” She continues, “Mentors should help Millennials fulfill their objectives while achieving the company’s business objective.”

People Matter

The other important factor for non-Millennial mentors to keep in mind when working with up and coming talent within their firm is that no two career paths will look alike, especially when female professionals representing the Gen Y workforce today are facing different challenges and enjoying more opportunities than the women who came before them.

In order to be an effective mentor, senior female executives should shed any perception of the traditional path of career advancement and focus on the individual instead. McClements adds, “Millennials are very open to mentors and engaging in dialogue, especially as it relates to their own development. What the study helped us see is the importance of engagement and understand personal goals and motivations.”

McClements stresses the fact that different generations will be motivated by different things. “Millennials,” she says, “are motivated by engagement and teamwork, and have expectations that flexibility will be an important part of the work environment.” By recognizing just how much the Gen Y workforce seeks a personal connection at work; mentors can really make a difference and have a greater impact on their mentees than ever before.