Mentorship is not a new concept. The word Mentor comes from the Ancient Greek writer Homer’s epic story called The Odyssey. The story is of a hero, called Odysseus, who takes ten years to return home from the Trojan War. During that time Odysseus needs an older man to look after his son Telemachus; and he appoints an older, learned man named Mentor. The tradition of having a mentor is one that has permeated through out history and mentors can be found in every culture. In 20th century business organizations, mentors have been commonplace, although usually they have been informal mentors on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis. A mentor is traditionally somebody who has ‘been there’. A brain to pick and an ear to listen to you. Somebody who can offer guidance, wisdom and insight when necessary.
Never before in the world of work has there been such a need for mentors and mentor-style management than there is today.
Generation Y Is Entering Your Workplace
This is an interesting generation who have high expectations coming into the workplace that are not often met. Why they have such (unrealistically sometimes) high expectations is largely due to their up-bringing as the first generation in social history to live in what we call the ‘Dream Society’. These are what we call the ‘helicopter kids’ because they have been important, nurtured and pampered since they were born. Society placed much importance on their participation in grown-up activities; their talents were encouraged and their material needs were catered for wherever possible. They went through a school system that placed emphasis on inclusion, so they are not used to being left out. But they also come from broken homes or family dynamics where both parents work full time, so in most cases, you (their mentor) will be the only person in their life that they have to ask about life other than their friends on social media sites.
Formal mentoring or mentor-style management can give Generation Y three key things they need
- regular feedback that recognises what they are doing right; and investigates where they can improve
- helps them learn how to take initiative because they understand the ‘bigger picture’ because the mentor or mentor-manager has taken the time to explain ‘why’
- gives them an opportunity to really know what is going on (and the sharing of information is fundamentally important to them, where as the withholding of information will be interpreted as dishonest)