In a new study titled “How Millennials View Ethics in Public Relations Practice,” Nancy Weaver and I have been exploring the availability of mentors for Millennials, both inside and outside of the workplace. Our study is jointly sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America and the Arthur W. Page Center.
In previous studies, researchers have found mentoring was not only valued by Millennials, but also was associated with their intent to stay with the employer (Gallicano, 2013). Greater commitment to an organization is crucial as many employers have indicated that Millennials tend to be less loyal and more willing to leave to advance in their careers. As a managing director at a public relations agency said to me during a previous study, “The millennial mindset is very much in the moment and I don’t mean this in an ugly way; it’s…what have you done for me lately? (Neill, 2015)
Mentoring is a way of socializing employees into an organization by educating them about policies, role expectations and behavioral norms (Ashforth & Mael, 1989). Through a qualitative study, Pompper and Adams (2006) identified several benefits of mentoring in public relations, such as pointing out “image and behavioral detractors that could stunt” their growth and opening their professional networks to protégés.
Formal mentoring relationships tend to be associated with an employer assigning a more experienced person with a lesser experienced one, and informal mentoring relationships are associated with those that develop organically through the consent of the mentor and protégé.
I personally benefited from mentoring in my career and found that different mentors are needed for different seasons in our careers. Consistent with my personal experience, studies have found that both formal and informal mentors, both inside and outside of a company or organization are valuable at different stages of a career. When examining the impact of mentors in the academic environment, Peluchette and Jeanquart (2000) found that professors in their early and mid-career stages who had mentors from multiple sources (e.g., formal internal and informal external) experienced the highest levels of both objective (e.g., research productivity) and subjective success (e.g., work role, interpersonal, financial, life). In contrast, professionals in later career stages benefited more from internal mentors; however, as expected more senior professors were less likely to have mentors (Peluchette & Jeanquart, 2000).
Our current study involves an online survey with 236 Millennial public relations practitioners who are members of PRSA. While our study is still in progress, more than 80% of survey respondents have indicated they do have a mentor with whom they can discuss ethical concerns and almost 75% agree to strongly agree that they would be comfortable discussing ethical concerns with a mentor outside of their organization.
While these preliminary results are encouraging, our study did not ask participants to identify whether or not their employers are providing a mentor, but whether or not they have one. It is possible that many of these mentoring relationships are external to their employers.
Another issue of concern is the oldest members of the Millennial generation are beginning to take on managerial and other key decision-making roles. Almost 40% of our survey respondents indicated that they supervise either other employees or interns. As Millennials develop their managerial skills, internal mentors can be a valuable resource for guidance. These findings are preliminary and we look forward to sharing the full results upon completion of our study.
Dr. Marlene S. Neill is an assistant professor at Baylor University. She previously worked for almost 12 years in government and nonprofit public relations. Her research focuses on public relations management, integrated communication, and ethics.
Ashford, B.E., & Mael, F. (1989). Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14 (1), 20-39.
Gallicano, T.D. (2013). Relationship management with the Millennial generation of public relations agency employees. Public Relations Review, 39, 222-225.
Neill, M.S. (Winter 2015). Emerging Issues in Internal Communications: Generational Shifts, Internal Social Media & Engagement, Public Relations Journal, 9(4). Available online: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Vol9/No4/
Peluchette, J.V., & Jeanquart, S. (2000). Professionals’ use of different mentor sources at various career stages: Implications for career success. Journal of Social Psychology, 140 (5), 549-564.
Pompper, D., & Adams, J. (2006). Under the microscope: Gender and mentor-protégé relationships. Public Relations Review, 32, 309-315.