Why mentoring is so important for Generation Z

Ahead of National Mentoring Day 2018, Lord Price discusses the importance of stepping up and mentoring new talent in business

Sensible Generation Z. We are told that this is the generation who don’t drink. The Office for National Statistics released figures last week showing 27% of 16-24 year-olds don’t drink at all. This is the generation who have brought teenage pregnancy rates to their lowest levels for years.  The generation who prefer to stay in rather than go out. With this good behaviour one would assume they must be one of the happiest generations?  Wrong. At least not happy at work as data suggests.

By quite a large margin, results from the happiness surveys on workplace happiness platform, Engaging Works, have shown that employees under 25 (Gen Z) are less happy at work than all other age groups.  But why, with their sensible and safe lifestyle?

Why are Generation Z so dissatisfied at work?

Today we are seeing a seismic shift in business and the way we work in the UK, and indeed across the world, largely down to the impact of technology. Undoubtedly this has brought opportunities, making flexible working possible and allowing businesses to become more streamlined. But where does this streamlining leave new talent? Generation Z, who themselves have been shaped and brought up by technology, today enter a workplace where middle-management has been hollowed out and they are being given responsibility much earlier than before.

Could it be that this unhappiness at work stems from the fact that Generation Z, in roles of responsibility, aren’t receiving the support that they need or would like?

Businesses must remember that support in the workplace is vital for a happy and engaged workforce, and this is where mentoring comes in.

Mentoring offers huge opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee. It is vital that business leaders today recognise the need to support young people in the workplace and give back. I myself have a mentee and, as well as providing him with help and guidance, I too am benefiting from the experience. It gives me an opportunity to observe what it is like for young people starting out their careers; it lets me understand their problems and concerns, ultimately making me a better businessman and manager.

What makes a good mentor?

The primary role of a mentor is to use the experience and knowledge they have gained to help a mentee work towards their future career ambitions. It is not about helping the mentee achieve day-to-day goals. A good mentor should be unconnected with the mentee’s day-to-day work in order to provide objectivity and a focus on the future and their personal development.

A good mentor will also be patient in letting the background unfold and not show frustration if it takes some time. It is surprising how cathartic simply talking to someone about the challenges you face can be and how it can help you marshal in your own thoughts to the steps you might take.

In the first instance, it is helpful to spend time getting to know each other rather than leaping straight in. An hour of really listening to each other’s history to understand how you have been shaped and your view of the world is helpful. We each have a unique view formed by our upbringing, education and experiences. There is no right and wrong, just different factors that have shaped what we think.

Therefore, understanding these building blocks to our personality, preferences and performance is crucial to be able to give and receive information constructively. Through this process you will discover if the chemistry of the mentoring relationship is right, as well as the practical experience and knowledge which can be shared.

Some businesses have their own mentoring process but if you are self-employed or freelance it can be difficult to find a mentor or mentee, but there are services out there designed to help. I hope we can bring more business leaders into mentoring. Indeed, business leaders have a duty to help younger generations climb the career ladder and navigate the workplace. A guiding hand can help Generation Z to build confidence, self-reliance and ultimately happiness in the workplace.