To many baby boomer bosses, the world of millennials is completely alien. You may not be up to date with the latest fashion trends or understand the emoji code, but you need to understand the changes millennials are making to the workplace. Failure to do so could have drastic consequences for your business.
Millennials are changing the demographics of business. Today, a third of American workers are millennials. It is estimated that, by 2020, millennials will make up more than half of the global workforce. As these workers enter your workplace, they are bringing with themselves some pretty radical and innovative ideas. More than previous generations, millennials crave continuous feedback. They demand and expect a responsive managerial style and ongoing relationships with their supervisors — and they are quick to jump ship if those demands go unmet.
For too long, businesses have ignored their millennial employees’ demands, brushing them off as evidence of narcissism and childishness. The result is that just 29 percent of millennial workers are engaged at work, and 44 percent expect to leave their current employer within the next two years.
If you’re looking to motivate your millennial staff, drive down costly turnover, and cultivate a more productive and profitable workforce, you need to invest in continuous feedback.
Here, we look at five reasons why continuous feedback is the key to engaging and managing millennials.
1. Continuous Feedback Mirrors Employees’ Daily Realities
Millennials have grown up in the digital age. Since day one, their lives have been informed by the culture of speed and immediacy made possible by the internet. Communication has never been so immediate, with instantaneous feedback on social media posts and endless returns to — if not a borderline reliance on — Google. The internet has created a culture of ongoing communication and intense connectedness, so it’s no surprise that millennials expect the same standards in the rest of their lives — including at work.
This is why the old model of annual performance reviews doesn’t work anymore. According to a TriNet survey, 74 percent of millennials feel “in the dark” about how they’re performing at work — an especially unsettling feeling for those accustomed to constant access to information. An annual review can provide only a rudimentary yearly analysis that 40 percent of the survey’s respondents say is too vague to be helpful. Perhaps this why 28 percent of millennials surveyed by TriNet have responded to a performance review by searching for a new job.
Continuous feedback, on the other hand, mirrors the standards of the digital age: It’s constant, immediate, and readily available.
2. Continuous Feedback Creates an Ongoing Dialogue
A one-way conversation just won’t cut it with millennials, who are ambitious and hardworking and want to feel valued in the workplace. They want open dialogue instead.
This means millennials also want to be able to share their opinions and bounce around ideas in a constructive and structured environment. In fact, 32 percent of millennials dislike not having the opportunity to share their thoughts during the performance review process, according to the TriNet survey.
Irregular feedback keeps the conversation one-sided and provides little room for dialogue. In contrast, continuous feedback puts reciprocal dialogue at the heart of managerial practices.
Regularity keeps the lines of communication open. Whether face to face or digital, regular catch-ups keep the conversation flowing. A small commitment every day or week is all it takes to ensure your millennial employees feel like they’re being heard. Not only does regular contact keep you updated on your employees’ work and progress, but it also encourages staff to share their ideas while keeping them aligned with company-wide objectives.
3. Continuous Feedback Addresses Millennial Uncertainty
One of the most damaging misconceptions about millennials is that they are narcissists. All too often, managers mistake the desire to learn and grow for a self-indulgent need for continuous praise. However, the scathing opinion that millennials are the “trophy generation” couldn’t be further from the truth.
Millennials aren’t egotistical — they’re uncertain. Business has never been more competitive. Once, the biggest hurdle a professional had to face was getting their foot in the door. From there, they would slowly work their way up the company ladder. There is no such security in today’s global business landscape. Entry-level jobs often demand 2-3 years of experience, and competition for employment is high.
When a millennial asks for feedback, it stems from a desire to excel in their role. Millennials aren’t saying, “Tell me how good I am.” They are asking, “What can I do better?”
Continuous feedback is a much-needed security blanket for uncertain staff. Real-time, ongoing feedback keeps your employees in the loop. When they know where they stand and how they’re performing, they’re better equipped to progress and develop.
4. Continuous Feedback Helps Track Personal Development
What benefits do millennials want from their workplaces? Ping-pong tables? Free food? Beer on Fridays?
You may be surprised to hear that the benefits most valued by millennial employees are training and development. Millennials, as we’ve established, are an ambitious bunch. The standard 9-5, “get in and get out” attitude no longer applies. Millennials are looking for learning experiences. They want to be pushed and challenged by their employers.
Alongside more formal training programs, continuous feedback is a form of training in itself. Regular check-ins help employees establish pragmatic next steps and set clear objectives, which keep them feeling challenged and inspired. The continual process of appraisal and evaluation also helps you identify and track areas that require development.
Ultimately, investing small pockets of time at regular intervals shows your employees that you’re willing to help them with their personal and professional development. For an ambitious employee, that’s a precious, but rare, thing.
5. Continuous Feedback Uncovers Problems That Can Lead to Job Hopping
The demographic makeup of the workforce is not the only thing changing. The job market itself is experiencing a shift. Now, employers are increasingly focused on recruiting passive candidates — workers who are currently employed and not actively seeking new jobs. This puts you at a risk of losing your best staff.
Millennial employees understand this new climate and are happy to hop between companies, especially for a higher salary. The costs of such job hopping can be shocking, with millennial turnover costing the economy an incredible $30.5 billion annually.
Fortunately, it’s easy to keep turnover low. Once again, continuous feedback is the answer. Many employees will leave their workplaces over small but unaddressed grievances. Continuous feedback ensures that nothing falls between the cracks. It allows you to monitor your employees’ experiences and get their feedback on any issues they’re facing, meaning you can implement solutions as concerns arise, rather than being blindsided by star talent walking out the door.
Millennial aren’t as alien as they may appear. Millennials are simply products of their time. If you want to excel in contemporary business, it’s essential to work with them and not against them. When millennials become demotivated, productivity, innovation, and profitability take a hit. Continuous feedback can keep your workforce motivated and avoid such disastrous results.
Stuart Hearn is CEO of Clear Review.