The workplace of today is rather interesting, what with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z all coexisting within the same work environment! While this does add to the diversity, it also makes the workplace more complex. Why? Well, it cannot be easy to successfully fulfil all the expectations of such a wide age range, especially when it comes to mentorship. To ensure that mentorship programmes are effective and meaningful connections are fostered, a deep understanding of the mentorship expectations becomes crucial.
One of the most prominent generational differences in mentorship expectations lies in the perception of the mentor’s role. Baby Boomers and Generation X often view mentors as experienced guides who offer sage advice and impart industry wisdom. They may value hierarchical mentorship structures and believe in the importance of in-person interactions.
Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources, emphasises that each generation possesses distinct needs.
“Millennials focus on career growth and innovation, while the Generation Z seeks tech-driven roles in a dynamic environment. The significance of mentorship is acknowledged across generations, especially in evolving business landscapes,” explains Purohit.
However, it is not always the older generations that mentor the younger ones. According to Purohit, “There is a rising trend of reverse mentoring, with younger generations mentoring seniors, fostering collaboration, knowledge exchange and business outcomes. Forward-looking companies are embracing this potent practice.”
“Millennials focus on career growth and innovation, while the Generation Z seeks tech-driven roles in a dynamic environment. The significance of mentorship is acknowledged across generations, especially in evolving business landscapes”
Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources
Millennials and Generation Z approach mentorship with a more collaborative mindset. They see mentors as partners in learning, sharing knowledge and skills in a reciprocal manner. These younger generations often value mentorship that emphasises personal growth and work-life balance, seeking mentors who can also offer guidance on navigating the complexities of modern life.
Technological advancements have significantly influenced the way different generations communicate, and consequently, how they expect mentorship to unfold. Baby Boomers and Generation X may prefer face-to-face interactions and phone calls, valuing direct and personal connections. They may find digital communication methods less genuine or effective.
On the other hand, Millennials and Generation Z are comfortable with digital communication, including video calls, instant messaging and e-mail. Virtual mentorship relationships are more acceptable to them, aligning with their digital-native upbringing and fast-paced lifestyle.
According to P Dwarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK, among newer generations such as Gen Z, there’s a desire for quick, actionable solutions and a tendency to feel knowledgeable already.
“They seek specific advice and prefer short-term interactions. In contrast, Gen X and Baby Boomers value learning from experiences, embracing a medium-term approach with an emphasis on storytelling and evolution,” he observes.
He also points out, “Millennials and Gen Z have shorter attention spans due to digitalisation, while older generations appreciate structure and patience. Millennials want quick solutions; Gen Z prefers experiential insights; and Baby Boomers value process and in-depth learning. These differences stem from evolving times, technology and workplace culture.”
“Millennials and Gen Z have shorter attention spans due to digitalisation, while older generations appreciate structure and patience. Millennials want quick solutions; Gen Z prefers experiential insights; and Baby Boomers value process and in-depth learning”
P Dwarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK
Generational differences also emerge in the desired structure and duration of mentorship relationships. Baby Boomers and Generation X often appreciate longer-term mentorships that develop over the course of years. They believe in investing time to build trust and deep connections, valuing stability and consistency.
In contrast, Millennials and Generation Z tend to favour shorter-term, more dynamic mentorships. They are comfortable seeking guidance from multiple mentors for specific skills or challenges, adapting to the rapidly-changing work landscape. This approach aligns with their penchant for quick information consumption and adaptability.
Generational perspectives on inclusivity and diversity within mentorship also vary. Baby Boomers and Generation X may not prioritise diversity as heavily as Millennials and Generation Z. Younger generations often seek mentors from diverse backgrounds, valuing different perspectives and experiences that can contribute to their personal and professional growth.
Formal mentorship programmes and informal mentorship relationships are perceived differently by various generations. Baby Boomers and Generation X may value the formal structures provided by their organisations, believing in the benefits of structured guidance.
However, Millennials and Generation Z lean towards informal mentorship, valuing the flexibility and authenticity that come with more casual connections. They often seek mentors beyond their workplace, drawing insights from various sources such as online communities and social networks.
Vijay Singh, former VP-HR, JK Cement, feels that recognising that the evolution of workplace expectations is not solely a generational phenomenon is crucial. Even within the same generation, diverse individual requirements necessitate a nuanced approach.
However, the paradigm shift prompted by the pandemic, hybrid work culture, and remote work model highlighted the significance of engaging employees, particularly to mitigate issues such as retention and job dissatisfaction.
“HR business partners play a pivotal role in tackling the complexity of engagement challenges. They need to possess an acute understanding of the diverse demands within the workforce, including the needs of different generations, in order to provide tailored solutions”
Vijay Singh, former VP-HR, JK Cement
Singh rightly points out, “Employee engagement, which has been a long-standing concern for HR, has been propelled to the forefront of discussions.” While the concept itself isn’t novel, it has garnered renewed emphasis with evolution of the workforce landscape. “Human resource business partners play a pivotal role in tackling the complexity of engagement challenges. They need to possess an acute understanding of the diverse demands within the workforce, including the needs of different generations, in order to provide tailored solutions,” States Singh.
Navigating generational differences in mentorship expectations is a nuanced endeavour. Recognising that each generation brings its own unique perspectives and preferences to mentorship can lead to more effective mentoring relationships and programmes. Organisations aiming to create a supportive and nurturing environment must embrace these differences, tailoring their mentorship initiatives to address the evolving needs of a multigenerational workforce. By doing so, they can ensure that mentorship continues to be a valuable tool for professional development across all generations.