Mentor a millennial

Therese Dunphy

December 30, 2016

2016 has been a big year on numerous fronts. Aggregates Manager turned 20 in March and, during the same month, I celebrated 25 years of covering the aggregates industry. In November, I turned 50, or as my youngest likes to put it, half a century. Great perspective check.

As I’m busy parenting my older sons through educational and career decisions, I’ve also realized that I have fewer work years left ahead of me than I have behind me. It’s a sobering thought to look up and realize how quickly time passes.

Perhaps it’s dichotomy of watching my children try to figure out where they are going as industry peers who don’t seem nearly old enough begin to mention that “r” word, but I’m more keenly aware of generational issues in the workplace than at any point in memory.

That may be why it struck me when Tom Hill, CEO of Summit Materials and our 2016 AggMan of the Year, spoke fondly of Don Godson, former group chief executive at CRH. Godson served as Hill’s mentor during his tenure with Oldcastle (see page 8). Lessons imparted decades ago have stayed with him and shaped his own management beliefs and style.

There is quite a bit of research on the effects of mentoring, but the prevailing wisdom is that most highly successful business people have had a mentor. In fact, more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have some sort of mentoring program. It is the new corporate perk being used to attract employees.

That’s not a surprise. Millennials are a generation who are used to being praised. They’ve grown up asking advice on social media and crave feedback.

But there are significant differences between today’s mentor programs and those you or I may have had when we were at the outset of our career. First, the feedback is not always top down; it’s a two-way relationship with each party providing useful information to one another. Getting useful insights — such as tech savvy from a younger employee — make the time invested by an already overscheduled more senior employee more worthwhile. Next, most younger employees seek multiple mentors; with each serving as a subject matter experts for issues such as operational expertise, work/life balance, professional development, etc.

The aggregates industry is a little older than the overall U.S. workforce, so generational issues may not be as apparent, but it’s coming. Quickly. By 2020, nearly half the U.S. work-force will be comprised of Millennials. Companies that take their cues from all generations, not just the most experienced of their staff, will be better positioned for success in the workplace. Just ask Tom Hill.

As his mentor, Don Godson, said, “You don’t come down with all the wisdom from above. Sometimes, you learn from below.”

There are no comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *