Time to Get Serious About Engaging Millennials
Millennials, that generation born between 1980 and 1995, will represent 75% of the global workforce in just ten years time. For Associations to retain their relevance even in the short term, they must appeal to this ambitious and connected generation.
To engage under 35s, Associations need to provide tools and programs that meet those needs not readily met in the workplace or online.
This generation is particularly impatient for success. Yet 50% of Millennials worldwide believe that their organisations could do more to develop future leaders. As Baby Boomers retire and the world’s 50 million Gen Xers are overwhelmed by the 88 million Millennials, it is increasingly difficult for under 35s to find the kind of guidance and mentorship they need to scale the heights of their ambitions.
Access to knowledge and experience is one thing Associations have in abundance. So providing younger members with access to a mentor not only fulfills a deeply felt need, but also makes the Association relevant to a whole new generation.
This message is not new. For some time now we have been advocating mentoring programs as an ideal tool for Associations to engage Millennials. It turns out that we have been preaching to the converted. In a recent survey of hundreds of business leaders, consultants and executives in professional associations in the US, Canada, Australia and India, we discovered that Associations are already well aware of the potential of mentoring programs.
The study showed that 87.3% of key Association stakeholders agreed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to attract young people, and a whopping 94.3% agreed that mentoring should be a key focus of Associations to attract young people.
If the solution is so obvious, why then aren’t all Associations actively running structured mentoring programs? The answer of course is that there are hurdles to getting a mentoring program off the ground. The key challenges identified in our survey related to resources and structure.
Finding a sufficient cadre of qualified mentors, the time required both for set up and participation and the cost all present internal road blocks. Association stakeholders also worry that they do not have the right structure to successfully sustain a mentoring program.
There is no doubt that a mentoring program does not happen with the snap of the fingers. But the prize of continued relevance is worth pushing through the challenges. We have some solutions that may help.
First, consider “virtual mentoring”. This term simply refers to mentoring activity that does not take place face-to-face. However, today’s technology has made available virtual mentoring programs that offer a suite of training and communications tools. Better programs also provide tips, guidelines and tools to assist with effective matching of mentors and mentees. These virtual programs offer the structure many Association stakeholders feel they lack.
The other advantage of virtual mentoring is that it broadens the scope of your program, making it easier to access participants with time or geographic constraints. You now have a much larger pool from which to source qualified mentors.
Also, by using tools like Skype, email and messaging, virtual mentoring speaks the language of the younger generation, reinforcing the Association’s relevance in a digital world.
The second thing to consider is your funding model. There is no question that an effective mentoring program is going to come at a cost, whether it’s accessing outside tools and consultants or diverting internal resources, or most likely both.
However, by thinking creatively it is possible to offset these costs, or even run your program at a profit. Consider charging mentees for participation, which not only generates revenue but also ensures mentee commitment. Consider seeking sponsorship. It is likely that the big players in your industry are also seeking ways to engage Millennials and may be willing to help fund an industry wide program.
Associations’ stakeholders know the importance of engaging Millennials and understand the potential of mentoring to realise that engagement. It’s time to get serious about knocking down the road blocks, and establish structured mentoring programs to attract new blood and stay relevant.
Art of Mentoring specialises in developing mentoring programs for professional associations. Contact us today if you are interested in exploring the potential of mentoring to engage your members and grow your association.
 The Deloitte Millennial Survey, January 2014.
 The Deloitte Millennial Survey, January 2014.
 Attracting Young Members to Associations, An Insight Report from Art of Mentoring, 2015.