Survey Findings

Finding Four: Millennials Want Mentorship

From hovering “helicopter parents” on campuses to teens who check in hourly via text, everyone has noticed that Millennials have an unusually close relationship with their parents. Not surprisingly, a generation that has grown up regarding older people as close personal advisers is looking for those kinds of relationships in the workplace as well.

In our survey, nearly a third of Millennials “strongly” agreed that they want to work for an organization that provides an excellent mentoring program, far more than any other generation. Millennials rank their employers’ performance in this area slightly higher than do older age brackets, but even so, they experience by far the largest gap between what they have and what they want.

To be sure, this gap may partly reflect an “age effect,” in which younger workers are more likely than older workers to seek out mentorship—yet the generational effect is also undoubtedly in play.  Young Boomers in the 1970s and Gen Xers in the 1980s were famous for distrusting authority figures and preferring to follow their own inclination or inspiration rather than seek guidance from their elders.4 Millennials, on the other hand, grew up accustomed to trusting and confiding in older people, starting with their parents, on all their most important life decisions.  Seeing themselves as special, Millennials also tend to assume they are worth a great deal of attention by older people.  After a lifetime of interacting confidently and informally with their own parents, they are puzzled and annoyed by the suggestion that they should always stay respectfully silent around senior personnel.  Add all this up, and you have a generation that craves a close and personal mentoring relationship with institutional leaders.

4. In the 1970s, the term “generation gap” referred to the younger generation’s open hostility toward the older generation’s institutions; today, it merely refers to differences in outlook between older and younger generations.