Coaching and Mentoring Millennials

Should someone’s age dictate the way you manage them? Perhaps. A lot has been written about how generation Y differs from others, particularly the jobs they want, the skills they bring, what motivates them, etc. But by managing the generation differently aren’t HR stereotyping workers based on age? Or are they simply turning diversity into an advantage?[1] Poulsen[2] argues that in diversity mentoring the difference between the mentor and mentee will always be pronounced, but this difference should be seen as an opportunity for transformational learning to take place.

A New Generation of Employees: Mentoring Millennials[3]

The average age of the population is changing bringing about a tremendous change to the workforce. In the oncoming years they will account for nearly half the employees if they don’t constitute the majority already. This has meant that organisations are having to rethink the way they attract the attention of younger workers. For some it may seem daunting to think of not just attracting but also coaching a generation who clearly knows what they want[4].

Zimmerman[5] suggests that among millennials there is a collective shout to employers to develop and mentor them, to be given opportunities to lead. It is clear that for younger employees the ability to grow in an organisation is a vital aspect of job hunting. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, up to 63% of millennials said that they weren’t developing their leadership skills. Millennials have a bad reputation of being spoiled and lazy with high expectations, but that’s not necessarily true. Moore[6] argues that they could play an important role in harnessing valuable talent, it is possibly due to high expectations that they are more interested than previous generations in having a mentor.

Coaching and Leading Millennials[7]:

Considering that millennials are the most highly educated and tech-savvy generation thus far, they are needed in the workplace but what they lack is experience. Meister and Willyerd[4] argue that millennials expect organisations to provide them with the opportunity to grow. As a way of attaining and engaging this generation there has been an evolvement in the traditional style of mentoring; reverse mentoring, micro mentoring, and group mentoring can now be commonly linked to millennials.

In reverse mentoring the mentor is usually younger than the mentee, providing the opportunity for older employees to learn from their younger counterparts, unlike traditional methods which distributed learning hierarchically. Presently seniors are mentored by younger employees in technology, social media and current trends[8]. However Harvey, McIntrye, Heames and Moeller[9] emphasises that whilst reverse mentoring can be cross generational, it isn’t always dependent on age. Those who are new to the organisation will have equal amounts of knowledge to share with more than just senior managers. Examples of organisations utilising reverse mentoring are: General Motors, Unilever, Marks and Spencer’s, Deloitte & Touche and Procter & Gamble. Furthermore Chaudhuri and Ghosh[8]  argues that in addition to gaining comprehension in technology, reverse mentoring has further advantages. For example it can help build sensitisation to issues in the workplace regarding diversity, work life balance and global perspective; each of which contributes towards increasing levels of engagement at work.

This trend can also have a double sided benefit as mentees will also gain information access; appreciation and professional respect; personal fulfilment; improved morale and reduced turnover. Altogether sharing expertise and increasing levels of involvement means that millennials are committed to the organisation and the seniors are engaged[4].

Moreover Emelo[10] suggests group mentoring as an attractive substitute to traditional coaching for 3 main reasons. Firstly it is a fast and reliable way of creating an informal curricula to address emerging needs. Internal experts and those with learning needs can be brought together for a short period of time instead the traditional 2 times a year approach. Secondly, it is a cost effective method as you are able to leverage and multiply internal expertise leading to an inexpensive approach that isn’t interfered with geographical boundaries. Lastly, it helps to foster relational learning, millennials would rather connect with individuals in a collaborative learning process rather than an impersonal databases.


Moore[6] argues that despite their bad reputation millennials acknowledge the limitations they have which stops them from progressing forward. They view mentors as contributors to personal growth, considering them confidants who are willing to provide knowledge. The principle behind coaching and mentoring is simple; a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties involved. An openness to change and a willingness to learn thinking beyond technology and age gap. With sufficient coaching and mentoring their need for constant feedback will dissolve and employers will have valuable and productive employees[11].



[1] CIPD. (2014, March 4). Thinking strategically about age diversity. Retrieved from CIPD:

[2] Poulsen, K. (2013). Mentoring programmes: learning opportunities for mentees, for mentors, for organisations and for society. Industrial and Commercial Training, 45(5), 255 – 263.

[3] FoxCU. (2014, September 3). A New Generation of Employees: Mentoring Millennials. Retrieved from YouTube:

[4] Meister, J. C., & Willyerd, K. (2010, May). Mentoring Millennials. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review:

[5] Zimmerman, K. (2016, July 18). Modern Mentoring Is The Key To Retaining Millennials. Retrieved from Forbes:

[6] Moore, K. (2014, September 11). The Modern Mentor In A Millennial Workplace. Retrieved from Forbes:

[7] Ameritas. (2015, December 29). Coaching and Leading Millennials. Retrieved from YouTube:

[8] Chaudhuri, S., & Ghosh, R. (2012). Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed. Human Resource Development Review, 11(1), 55 – 76.

[9] Harvey, M., McIntyre, N., Heames, J. T., & Moeller, M. (2009). Mentoring global female managers in the global marketplace: Traditional, reverse, and reciprocal mentoring. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(6), 1344-1361.

[10] Emelo, R. (2011). Group mentoring best practices. Industrial and Commercial Training, 43(4), 221 – 227.

[11] NeighthanWhite. (2017, February 27). Is Coaching & Mentoring Millennials So Important? Retrieved from Training Zone:


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