Mentoring Can Help Stop the Millennial Revolving Door

Happy Labor Day!

According to Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor historian, the first-ever Labor Day celebration occurred on Sept. 5, 1882, when 10,000 or more New York union members paraded to Wendel’s Elm Park at 92nd Street and 9th Avenue where they drank beer, picnicked and listened to speeches from union leaders. Many of the workers had to forfeit a day’s pay in order to participate.

The holiday evolved over the decades, just as America’s work force has experienced significant changes. Today, there is a great deal of talk across all industries about hiring and keeping talented Millennials. The first part – hiring – is happening at a rapid pace. Analysis from Deloitte University Press shows that Millennials “have recently inched past the other generations to corner the largest share of the U.S. labor market.” A growing number of Millennials occupy senior positions.

The second part – retention – continues to be a challenge. A 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey reports that one in four Millennials would quit his or her current job to join a new organization or to do something different. The number of Millennials who would leave an employer within two years jumps to 44 percent, and two of every three Millennials responded they hope to have a moved on from their current job by the end of 2020.

What’s Going On?

Are Millennials just a bunch of attention-challenged jackanapes who overestimate their value, want things their way (right away), and threaten to take their skills and go elsewhere if they don’t get it? Don’t be quick to judge them, warn those who have analyzed reports like the one from Deloitte and others.

As the Deloitte study points out, Millennials are hungry to move into leadership positions, but they understand the way to do that is to receive strong mentorship. It is interesting to note that Millennials site “leadership” as being the skill that businesses value most, yet only 24 percent thought this was a strong personal trait of theirs upon graduation. In other words, Millennials recognize they have a lot to learn – and are hungry to learn it – but a large percentage of them feel their current employer is letting them down in this area.

A whopping 71 percent of those who said they are likely to leave their current employer in the next two year are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed. The most loyal employees among the respondents to the Deloitte survey are more likely to agree that:

  • There is a lot of support/training available to those wishing to take on leadership roles.
  • Younger employees are actively encouraged to aim for leadership roles.

Providing the Mentoring Millennials Crave

How do you create the mentoring culture that Millennials appear to crave? Jeremy Chandler, a twentysomething content strategist, offered these three tips in a recent blog post on, a website whose mission is to bridge the gap between Millennials and their older workplace colleagues.

Develop systems that support mentoring. “You can’t simply say, ‘we should do a better job of mentoring Millennials’ without setting up systems that support it,” Chandler states. Some companies have formal mentoring programs in place, but informal ones work well, too. “It could be as simple as hosting a brown bag lunch once a month, or allowing older employees to leave a couple hours early to take a Millennial employee out for a drink after work.”

Help older employees realize they have something valuable to contribute. Many Baby Boomers feel Millennials are too different and don’t want to learn from their older, more experienced colleagues. Not so, says Chandler.

Encourage Millennials to fail. “Encouraging Millennials to take risks and helping them navigate through unknown situations is an incredibly valuable way to create loyalty with us,” says Chandler. “This is another reason why knowing how to provide productive criticism to Millennials is so important.”

“The idea of creating a culture of mentoring might seem like another reason why managing our generation is so difficult. But I think it’s not unique to our generation,” says Chandler. “The concept of mentoring Millennials (or lack thereof) is just the latest iteration of the truth that people leave managers, not companies.”