Tessie Sanci, Associate Editor
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Engage younger employees through mentoring | Canadian Insurance
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Engage younger employees through mentoring

Generation Y is eager to learn and will respond well to guidance from experienced colleagues, says relationship and career expert

A mentoring program is the “secret sauce” to tackling challenges such as employee retention and collaboration between different generations, according to Dr. Karyn Gordon, CEO of DK Leadership and a frequent speaker on relationship and career issues.

A mentoring program is a way for colleagues of various generations to share their knowledge with each other, said Gordon, who spoke recently at a town hall in Toronto organized by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.

“One of the best things about Generation Y is that they’re so hungry to learn,” she said. “They want to do a great job but they do need to get feedback [from their managers].”

Mentoring will also help manage the expectations of those younger employees, who are known for their desire to climb the professional ranks quickly. More senior employees can provide a realistic sense of the time it will take to move up in the company, Gordon added.

And senior employees and managers can also benefit through “reverse mentoring,” in which a more junior staffer shares his or her skills with older colleagues, Gordon suggested. This type of mentoring works especially well with senior employees who may need some help enhancing their technology skills.

Gordon shared with the audience of brokers her key strategies for the development of an effective mentoring program:

> Measure your success

Brokerages that develop a mentoring program should consider the objectives they want to achieve through this program. Companies can claim success based on certain criteria that can include but are not limited to the development of specific skills, the retention rate of employees and the number of participants within the mentoring program that receive a promotion, according to Gordon.

> Engage your employees

“The companies that I find are doing [these programs] really well are not keeping it quiet,” said Gordon. “Nothing is more powerful or inspirational than hearing success stories.”

Management teams can increase interest in mentoring by explaining how it works and the possible benefits. If the program is already in place, its participants can discuss what they appreciate and are learning from the arrangement, said Gordon.

> Nurture and diversify

Consider having employees from different departments, generations and cultures connect with each other in a mentorship setting. “The second that we start to develop a relationship or connection with somebody outside of ourselves, it expands our curiosity and gets us to think a little bit differently,” Gordon said.

Gordon took her own advice when she was looking for a mentor. Gordon is a psychologist by trade but she wanted to advance her business skills and so she chose a professional who excelled in that field.

> Discuss parameters

It is important to set up a series of guidelines that will help structure the mentoring interaction. The mentoring partners should discuss the frequency, the duration and the location of their meetings. It is also a good idea to make it clear whose job it is to initiate the interaction, according to Gordon.

> Consider formal and informal types of mentoring

Mentoring tends to occur privately between two individuals but there are other ways to build this activity into the corporate culture, Gordon suggested.

She referred to a company that organized opportunities for staff to interact informally at lunch. Professionals of different skills sets and levels of experience would pair up and spend lunch sharing career development ideas. Participants could then use another lunch break to learn from a different colleague.

“It would allow people to meet and connect with a whole bunch of different [professionals] within the organization,” Gordon explained.