Managing Millennials: expect to give them constant feedback

Jason Walker

Jason Walker

President of Americas

August 09, 2016

Managing Millennials: expect to give them constant feedback

Jason Walker, President of Americas
August 09, 2016

Managing Millennials: expect to give them constant feedback

Managing millennial employees can seem like hard work for older generations, but maybe that’s more to do with Boomers and the like than they care to admit. Many managers and business owners came from a bygone era of professional stoicism: you put up and shut up to get the job done.

By contrast, millennials won’t settle for the status quo, or indeed for just any status. While they’re wired to look for opportunities and challenges, and seem to constantly seek detailed feedback, it’s short-sighted to label them as entitled or selfish.

It’s less about a need for validation, and more a desire to improve, matched with a willingness to learn.

Millennial employees can be incredibly creative, motivated, and cooperative — if you know how to properly support them.

Read on to learn how to develop the talents and address the shortcomings of these young workers using clear, specific and balanced feedback.

Forget the annual performance review

Gone are the days of the annual performance review – a one-time shot for bosses to explain what they do and don’t  like about their workers. Millennials want frequent feedback so they can actually improve their work and impress their superiors more often.

Millennials want to see their bosses as mentors or coaches instead of distant authority figures, reports the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Here’s what to do about that:

  1. Consider bi-weekly check-ins to gauge their progress and develop a stronger and more communicative relationship.
  2. Give both positive feedback and talk about room for growth. Millennials don’t want to wait until their anniversary date to hear what they’re doing right and wrong. They want to know as soon as possible so they can start fixing the problem.
  3. Ask your employees how and when they would like feedback. Maybe some prefer monthly reviews while others would like 15-minute catch-up sessions every Friday. Getting their opinion can help you understand how each individual processes feedback – and how best to deliver it to them.

Get specific about performance

While some people claim millennials are entitled, maintaining a millennial employee’s loyalty and morale doesn’t have to be difficult.

One of the best ways to do this is by narrowing the focus of your feedback. Go beyond simply thanking them for doing well and commend specific attributes of their performance:

  • Did you like that they anticipated possible problems before you brought them up?
  • Did you appreciate their turning in the project ahead of schedule?
  • Were you impressed that they came up with several innovative ideas for their next project?

Start with a question around the results and performance and give credit where it is due.

Millennials want to feel like they can satisfy an employer, which can be difficult in the face of vague expectations and withholding stoicism.

“Explain the nature of the problem in detail and how it affects the organization,” urged Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky and Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed in an article in trade publication Industrial Supply. “Build on the employee’s strengths by explaining what aspects of the job he or she is doing well and how improving the specific area of performance will benefit him or her and the organization.”

Detailed feedback helps give your employees understand where they fit into an organization, and in turn they can become much more eager to contribute and receptive to criticism.

Positive feedback lifts performance

Even when you have bad news or a harsh word to deliver to your young employees, try to include some positive feedback as well. If millennials hear too much negativity from a superior, their confidence – and therefore performance – may be affected.

That doesn’t mean you have to lavish fake praise on them in an attempt to sugarcoat criticism. You just need to be balanced.

And specific. Don’t let your criticisms come across as vague or unfocused. Be direct and balance:

  • Explain what they did wrong, and how it has affected the organization
  • Separate the bad and good actions from each other, and be as clear as possible in your conversation.
  • Explain how to fix the situation: millennials need to know where they can correct their behavior (and one side benefit of that is they’ll avoid another critical conversation).

Only mentioning the bad things they’ve done can make your millennial employees feel worthless – like there isn’t any point in trying to appease you. You don’t just want them to feel penitent, but also confident that they can do a better job next time.

If the employee fixes their mistake, make sure to mention it. Remember, millennials want to be appreciated, and a few sentences of acknowledgement can make the difference between a disgruntled employee and a happy, productive team member.

Give feedback in person

While millennials are a tech-savvy generation, that doesn’t necessarily apply to how they like to work. They still prefer to work in teams and small groups and receive feedback in person from their bosses and coworkers.

So don’t use email.

Although email is a convenient form of communication, you’ll achieve more when you give feedback (good or bad) in person. Even the best-written emails can be misinterpreted and seem passive aggressive to a distraught employee.

Don’t make a big show, and try not to let other people see you reprimanding your employee. Unless they’ve done something critically wrong, there’s no need to involve your superior or their peers. More humiliation is unlikely to make your employee more effective at their job.

If you have good news to pass along to your millennial employee, deliver that in person as well. The positive interaction will boost their morale, and help remind them why they chose to work for you in the first place.

Remember: the future success of many organizations will rely on the ability to attract and retain millennial talent. If you want to be competitive in the modern job market, try to understand not just how, but why millennial workers think differently about work.

Want more? Jason Walker, President of Americas for Deputy shares his leadership tips in The Rise of the Millennial: Three ways to retain workforce through technology.


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Jason Walker
Jason is responsible for growing Deputy’s footprint across the Americas region.

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