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The Secrets for Giving Feedback to Millennials
Brian Castro's help desk department serves more than 1,000 end-users at his company's distribution center. Among the 23 employees in his multi-generational staff are several Millennials (born 1980-1999) who he hired last year, fresh out of college.
Like the rest of Brian's help desk staff, his Millennials are excellent at solving difficult computer problems, usually under a critical deadline. Overall Brian, a Baby Boomer, is pleased with his new hires and tells them just how much he values them.
That's why Brian was shocked when his most promising Millennial showed up at his office Monday morning and announced that Friday would be his last day. The young employee was leaving for a new job "where he would be truly appreciated." Brian was speechless. How had he gone wrong?
The Challenge of Managing Millennials
For Millennials, on the other hand, constant feedback is an almost critical ingredient in performance and job satisfaction. It sometimes seems as if this younger generation has an insatiable appetite for praise. And if they don't receive the recognition they feel they deserve, they may be more likely to bail out of their jobs for greener pastures. Why the craving for feedback and praise?
The children of Baby Boomers, the Millennial Generation (sometimes also called Generation Y) have been raised in an atmosphere of high expectations, plenty of feedback and heaps of praise. They have received feedback on class assignments at each stage of development and are used to getting support throughout the completion of tasks and projects. Many observers consider them to be spoiled and unrealistic in their job expectations. They complain that Millennials show up late, leave early, refuse overtime, and expect to be promoted without "paying their dues."
However we can't escape the fact that Millennials are going to transform the workplace over the next five years. By 2014 there will be more than 58 million Millennials employed in various organizations in the U.S. alone! Employers must begin adapting to the challenge of managing Millennials or risk high employee turnover and decreased productivity.
Communicating with Millennials
So what's a manager to do? Coddle his or her employees? Hardly!
Managers must give feedback to their employees (it's central to the job description) but feedback won't work if it doesn't penetrate the layers of expectation and sensitivity surrounding most Millennials.
The secret is to structure your feedback - whether positive or negative - in a framework that leaves no room for misunderstanding. Feedback has to be clear and specific to be effective. And by the way, this is true for all employees, no matter what age!
So, to make sure your feedback hits the mark employ these strategies:
And also try to give plenty of on-the-spot feedback as the employee is progressing. Don't make the mistake of confining your praise to formal meetings. Catch your employee "doing something right" and let him or her know on the spot that you noticed. Give a pat on the back when it's deserved!
Cracking the Millennials' Code
Managers too often give feedback in vague generalities that come across as threatening, frequently saying things like:
This doesn't resonate with employees, particularly Millennials, because they would rather hear something more positive (and unrealistic), such as:
While more positive in tone, this approach is just as general and as unlikely to yield results as the first example. Instead, following the model above, you need to say:
Managing Millennials may be challenging. But when you take the time to consider reframing your communication, you'll find that your Generation Y employees will respond with enthusiasm and commitment. You may even be surprised at how well this applies to all generations of employees!
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© Copyright 2009 Auerbach Publications