Maybe it’s all those participation trophies we gave them. Or the instant gratification from the cell phones they exited the womb with … Millennials require a lot of feedback in the workplace, and maybe we ought to just give it to them.
Consider this … the millennials are the generation who grew up offering their feelings, purchases, pets and dinner on social media for approval through comments, likes and shares.
“Today, it’s necessary for employers to incorporate some way of measuring millennial employees that can be viewed instantly and give them a sense of where they stand,” writes Kaytie Zimmerman, Forbes Magazine Under 30 contributor and founder of OptimisticMillennial.com.
Who are the millennials?
Millennials, AKA Generation Y, are now the largest share of the American workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, more than one third of American workers today are millennials (ages 19 to 35). The 53.5 million millennial workforce last year surpassed the baby boom generation (ages 52 to 70), which has declined as boomers retire. Generation X (ages 35 to 51), the older siblings of Gen Y on the young end and their parents on the older end, had just three years of dominance in numbers but could grow again as the Great Recession fades and immigration adds workers.
There can be a clash as tech-savvy millennials compete with their older colleagues for promotions and raises, and win. This chagrins those boomers and Gen Xers, who are likely to view the newbies as wanting validation they have not yet earned. And the millennials may lack patience with their older peers who they view as stodgy and stuck in old, inefficient modes.
What millennials want
“Forty percent of millennials expect a promotion every one to two years, and the youngest generation was more likely than the others to say that raises, promotions and bonuses should be provided more than once a year,” writes Roy Maurer, of the Society for Human Resource Management, citing a 2015 study by Addison Group.
“This generation also tends to view having their own office as a right, rather than a reward, more so than Generation X and baby boomers,” Maurer writes. Millennials were also more likely than expect bonuses as a part of compensation, rather than a reward.
This can feel like excessive coddling and stroking to Gen Y’s older Gen X colleagues, and like utter nonsense to the “elderly” baby boomers. But, Zimmerman writes millennials need that approval to provide them with feedback on their performance. They want a guide for how to proceed next.
“Millennials have grown up with everything at their fingertips and instant feedback. Think about their exposure to video games and how instantaneous the feedback is in a game. There’s a running scoreboard, where one can always see where they stand and know if they will win, lose, or move to the next level,” Zimmerman writes. “It’s no surprise then that young employees are looking for frequent feedback, a scoreboard on their progress, and a road map to where they are headed.”
What employers can do
LinkedIn talent acquisition leaders recently interviewed a millennial manager of millennials to find out what the Y Genners want and need to succeed. Natalie Cruz, Talent Acquisition Operations Support Manager, says there are three keys to managing millennials.
- Understand that millennials want supervisors to “check in” with them. Millennials take things more personally and need to feel their professional life and personal life are working in harmony.
- Listen to millennial employees and “empower them to make change,” being prepared to coach them along the way. Understand the millennial drive to move on to the next level. Offer more projects, helping them set a timeline and expectations for themselves
- Create a casual relationship and get to know employees on a personal level. Millennials find it essential to feel comfortable in their work environment. They want to feel like they can be their authentic selves at work.
Zimmerman suggests that, accepting this millennial mindset, employers can look for ways to chart performance of their younger workers. This encourages growth and productivity. Gathering employee input and providing feedback lets employees know where they stand.
Maybe they’re on to something
“Creating a scoreboard for employees can also remove some of the informal barriers to promotion and raises that millennials despise,” Zimmerman writes. “This generation is far less likely to want to play the corporate political dance to be liked enough by upper management to receive a promotion. They respect transparency and authenticity. So, displaying progress clearly and publicly gives them the opportunity to understand why they did or did not receive a raise.”
Zimmerman writes that the solution is not in more manager/employee meetings; it’s in creating a winnable game for employees. Crafting a method for public “scorekeeping” increases opportunities for feedback without spending valuable time one on one with them.
“If these things are accomplished,” writes Zimmerman. “The problem of needing more frequent feedback resolves itself through formal scoreboards and game metrics.”
Does this sound like a lot more performance evaluation, paperwork and managerial duty? Or baby-sitting, even? It’s surely a change from boomer days. Boomers expected to keep their heads downs, fly under the radar and crank out work with infrequent validation.
This type of progress reporting and feedback could be beneficial to employees of all ages. Gen X and boomer workers might need some time to adjust, though. These new feel-good check-ins could seem like mistrust and intrusion. However, employers and employees may do well to embrace the millennial mindset. Those millennials are already creeping up the corporate ladders and are likely to carry this management style with them.
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