By Bryan Leach
Mentoring is seen to be a way to improve performance
and as something that needs to be structured and
managed to be effective. From 2014 to 2016, a study
performed in-depth interviews with 53 individuals (16
baby boomers, 18 generation Xers and 19 Millennials) from eight
companies in Western Canada. The companies ranged in size from
international, national and regional companies to a two-person consultancy.
The companies represent a spectrum of approaches to
mentoring, ranging from mentoring as an informal implicit expectation
of senior practitioners, to a formal, structured mentoring
program managed by the HR department. What emerged from the
study were differing generational expectations of mentoring, frustrations
and desired changes to mentoring relationships, and the
effectiveness of mentoring in formal and informal mentoring settings.
As mentees, baby boomers expressed very low expectations
of mentoring in their early career, and Gen-Xers also had low
expectations of mentoring. In contrast, Millennials have high expectations
The frustrations with and desired changes to mentoring relationships
expressed by all three generations were both structural
and behavioural. The prominent desired changes are summarized
in Table 1.
Baby boomers and Gen-Xers focused on structural changes,
whereas Millennials tended to focus on behavioural changes.
The structural changes also tended to be desired by individuals
engaged in informal mentoring relationships. The behavioural
changes were desired by individuals engaged in formal mentoring
relationships. The differences between the desired structural and
behavioural changes reflect the differences between informal mentoring
relationships that develop organically and lack any formal
structure, and formal mentoring relationships, which are managed
and potentially can feel forced.
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ MARCH 2017 ❚ 29