Why Millennials Want More Feedback, More Often

Everyone needs feedback. Constructive feedback helps people change course and reach their goals, and recognition affirms good behaviors. Companies that institute effective feedback are more likely to help their employees, and their bottom lines, grow.

There are many articles being passed around saying millennials need more feedback, especially as companies scramble to change their work culture and benefits package to drive retention and acquisition of the generation.

Most millennials wear the generational label with pride, knowing they and their peers and more driven by impact than by pay, and are motivated by the same incentives that encourage us all to do our best work. But the truth is, millennials haven’t changed the workplace, so much as technology changed the workplace and we all must adapt to use technology most effectively.

Millennials are motivated by the same incentives that encourage us all to do our best work Click To Tweet

This article will look at the changing workplace, how millennials are different and similar to other generations, and how to help managers give effective feedback to all workers.

The Changing Workplace

Is there anything that sets millennials apart from other workers? One thing jumps out: They are young. Just like young people before them, they have to be integrated into the workplace — which means both growing into their roles and changing the workplace in the process.

It may be that the nature of the workplace has changed more than the generation has. For instance, when Baby Boomers went to Corporate America and became Yuppies, there were clear, across-the-board standards for dress and grooming. Books like “Dress for Success” proscribed the attire for making it to the boardroom.

Today’s millennials are coming into a workplace with fewer standards. One office may require suits five days a week while at another, hoodies are perfectly acceptable. So, if you’re thinking, “Why don’t these millennials know how to dress?” you should probably turn the question around and ask, “What expectation does the workplace have for employees?”

Lack of trust plagues organizations with a disconnect from leadership and employees on the front lines and hinders everyone’s ability to learn and develop in an authentic manner.

Further, you may want to accommodate millennial fashion standards in your workplace to enhance your attractiveness to this generation. It is always worth asking ourselves whether traditions are meaningful or whether they no longer add value.

That advice applies to more than just dress codes. Before blaming a trend on millennials or any other stereotyped group, ask first if the issue is an individual, not the entire group; or, if the trend is due to a greater modernization of the workplace. Many differences can be solved through better management communication of expectations.

Technology Enables Feedback

All people are individuals, and millennials are individuals with unique characteristics, despite the widespread stereotypes. Probably the most prominent feature of this generation is that they are the first group in human history to be digital natives.

Having good feedback in place for all employees is the crucial starting place.

If you wonder why they won’t put their phone away during an important sales meeting, you’re saying the same thing their high school math teacher did. Digital natives may be prone to distraction, but also bring a habit of efficiency, knowing when to pull a literal computer out of their pocket to solve a problem.

Their fluency with technology is a big plus for the organization. Technology is always on. Advertising agency head Scott Hess says, “Millennials see work and life as an integrated whole, reflective of an ongoing journey to find meaning and money, together.”

Millennials see work and life as an integrated whole.

Today’s technology also wires us for instant feedback. On social media, you can ask for software recommendations and get 10 suggestions within the hour. Because feedback is so powerful in helping us learn and solve problems, millennials are going to expect that same cadence of feedback from their manager.

“Particularly when working with millennials, matching their cadence by setting aggressive, short-term goals, supported with real-time feedback, is the most effective way to keep your team on task,” says Reflektive’s Rachel Ernst.

Because today’s technology enables communication to flow, millennials expect their workplace tools to be user-friendly as well. Decisions about what software you provide for internal communication should consider the potential for employee engagement.

What Good Feedback Looks Like

Ultimately, though, a manager needs to develop the skills to give effective feedback to all of their employees, from the newest recruit right out of college through the person about to retire.

Feedback starts with setting clear expectations for the job Click To Tweet

Feedback starts with setting clear expectations for the job. A job description is just a starting place. Employees need to know what they are going to be evaluated on and who is going to be conducting the reviews.

The manager needs to course-correct between major performance reviews. Deborah Bright, author of “The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change,” offers four strategies to delivering on the job criticism:

  • Don’t offer criticism in general terms; instead engage the employee in specific solutions.
  • Tie the criticism to something the employee values.
  • Maintain neutral body language and voice.
  • Tailor the evaluation to the employee’s preferences.

The performance review itself needs to be a well-thought out process. Lori Goler laid out Facebook’s performance review system in an article for the Harvard Business Review. She argues that the tech company has found using metrics-based reviews reduce anxiety in the workplace. She says that in a recent evaluation of the reviews, 87 percent of employees wanted to keep them because they were perceived as a fair way of assessing employee growth and delivering bonuses.

Having good feedback in place for all employees is the crucial starting place.