One of the common themes at the RockStars@ Work Conference was the importance of mentorship for young employees. Two representatives from General Mills, Sue Listerud and Joi Warren, addressed this topic in their breakout session. They said that to be ahead of the game in business, employees must be ahead as well, and mentorship is crucial to getting there.
Thus, all new employees at General Mills are paired with a senior mentor in the company. These mentors are chosen to fit the individual and come from the pool of retirees.
Mentorship empowers young employees to achieve excellence at work. This little bit of extra, personal guidance can help a new employee know how to do outstanding work, rather than give an average performance. In the bigger picture, mentorship helps employees avoid career pitfalls and benefit from the experience of others so that they can attain their career goals.
But it also follows a fundamental rule of leadership: look to the future and cultivate new leaders to replace the old.
Whether you like it or not, today’s 20-somethings will be the leaders of your company in the future. A mentorship program allows the experienced leaders to pass on their wisdom to the up-and-coming ones. This ensures a continuity of vision and competent leadership. It also allows those new leaders to advance further than their predecessors because they can learn from experience and avoid common mistakes.
General Mills started a group to focus on succession planning. They examine how to prepare emergent leaders for their roles, and who will best step into that role when a person leaves.
They have found that retirees are eager to become mentors because they want to give back to the company that has invested so much in them. Mentors are eager to pass on their wealth of knowledge and wisdom because it ensures that when they leave, their jobs will be left in good hands.
On the other side of the equation, Gen Yers really like the guidance! This is something you should capitalize on, because it means we are eager to learn. We want to excel and impress our employers, but feel lost without guidance.
That is why frequent feedback from managers is so important. It is also why a mentorship program should be more than bi-annual meetings.
Instead, try to build a personal relationship between mentor and employee. Lunches two to three times a month and social events are ways that you can encourage these relationships. And don’t be afraid to let the young employees take charge of events or even the program.
Not only does that create a sense of ownership and encourage participation, but, after all, they know their interests best.
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