Millenials at Work, Kraft’s Innovative Approach to Mentoring

May 25, 2010 previously reported on the Millenial tsunami hitting the American workplace. previously reported on the Millenial tsunami hitting the American workplace, based on a recently released book, entitled The M-Factor. Now we’re going straight to the source, interviewing 20-somethings who are part of an innovative reverse mentoring program at Kraft.

As stated previously, Millenials are bringing a new attitude to the business world and turning traditional management practices upside down. Finding the right approach to recruitment and mentoring this next generation is critical in the years to come as the leading edge of this generation begins showing up for work.

Kraft’s Management Development Program (MDP) members this year took on Supermarketguru’s questions, candidly discussing their generation’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as how the MDP is helping them achieve their goals.

“Our generation is extremely goal-oriented. We constantly work to exceed expectations and seek clear outlines of our goals,” Management Development Associate (MDA), Jonathan Mekeel, begins. “The transparency of goals and the ability to meet them is a motivating factor for me. [Kraft’s] Upper management has made it very clear what their expectations are of us, and they have created an incredible agenda.”

Kraft’s MDA program is an 18-month accelerated learning program designed to prepare selected university recruits for future leadership roles in Sales and Customer Logistics. Associates participate in four distinct rational assignments which include on-the-job experience in direct selling, people management, sales analytics and customer management.

MDA Morgan Lucchino says Kraft’s program allows people in her generation to both achieve and excel in established goals, as well as providing the flexibility to provide their own insights.

“If we know what the company’s goals are, we can think of new ways to go about achieving them,” she explains. “We really are provided a solid understanding of how all the different wheels come together and work. The greatest takeaway from that will enable us to do a better job in whatever it is we do long term.”

This mindset follows the path outlined by authors Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman in The M-Factor, which explains that Millenials desire to know where they fit in a company and how they contribute to its mission.

MDA Michael Chown says this mindset also causes problems for his generation.

“We tend to get bogged down in the specifics without being able to see holistically what is happening. Kraft is great at setting goals for us, while still not setting goals. It’s a great program. I have never been able to get into a comfort zone while in this program because I am constantly challenged.

“We’re also lucky in that we joined the company when [it was] in the midst of making great changes,” he adds. “We’ve learned to adapt to changes in a constantly evolving work environment. These experiences challenge us and make us better people, and make us better leaders in the organization.”

Recruiting the Right Perspective
Another interesting insight into the psyche of Millenials is their approach to recruitment and interviews. They not only interview for a position, but they also interview the company.

Lucchino says she was encouraged to join the program during recruitment because she felt the company highly valued its new employees, and that it was interested in their development.

Mekeel agrees. “During the interview, I thought the recruiters were a great representation of the company, and I was interested in them. And when they were explaining the program, I felt that it offered an investment in the people.”

Chown adds: “This program is really unique and ahead of its time. I was part of the internship program here, and it gave me an idea of what we’d be doing in the future and what we’d be doing in the program. And I knew I wanted to be a part of it, because you are a valuable part of the company.”

This leads to another key element to keeping this generation involved and inspired — a collaborative approach to work. This is a team-working, collaborative generation. Millenials raised to be collaborators with their parents, teachers and peers are now looking for leaders willing to collaborate with them on creating meaning in what they do.

“From day one, you are contributing positively to the company,” Mekeel says about the program. “I am learning a lot from older generations on how they do business. It’s great from day one to be asked for my opinion and to have a positive impact; I think the collaboration is great.”

MDA Brittany Cook agrees: “Reverse mentoring is a collaborative relationship versus a mentor/mentee standing. We are taking the best practices from different generations and using them to push forward, and through the mentoring process, it feels as if you have someone who is always willing to be your cheerleader while also learning and growing with you.”