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Narcissistic, childish, demanding — the so-called ‘everybody gets a trophy’ millennial generation gets a bad rap. But are we making a mistake? We should be listening to millennials and taking time to understand their demands for regular continuous feedback to keep them motivated.

The face of business is changing. Today one-in-three American workers are millennials and it’s estimated that by 2020, millennials will make up half of the entire workforce. The future of the workplace rests on the shoulders of this new demographic. But according to recent studies, only 29% of millennial workers are engaged with their work and a striking 44% say they expect to leave their current employment in the next two years. The number one reason? Lack of constructive and continuous feedback.

More than any other generation, millennials crave continuous feedback to stay motivated at work. But their demands are often met with criticism. Shrouded in accusations of childishness and the inability to work innovatively and autonomously, many companies are failing to change their performance management model to address these new demands. However, failure to implement these changes could have devastating consequences for companies

In this post, we’ll break down the truth behind the millennial need for feedback. We’ll discuss how the desire for continuous feedback is actually a positive thing for your business and how you can leverage it to create a more positive and motivated workforce.

 Why Do Millennials Want Continuous Feedback?

To effectively manage our workforce, we need to understand our workers’ motivations and desires. So, let’s start with some myth-busting.

Millennials Don’t Require Continuous Feedback Because They’re Spoilt

Millennials’ demands reflect their reality. They have grown up in the digital age. Speed and immediacy have become the norm. Social media and Google searches have engaged them in a constant feedback loop from an early age. From asking questions to sharing opinions and providing commentary, the internet has created a culture of ongoing communication. In this time of intense connectedness, the need to receive instantaneous feedback should therefore be expected.

Continuous Feedback Is Not Never-Ending Praise

Millennials aren’t narcissistic: they’re uncertain. Too often, demands for continuous feedback are conflated with a self-indulgent need for continuous praise. But that’s simply not the case. In a highly competitive workforce, millennials desire feedback because they want constructive guidance. Many entry-level jobs now ask for between one and three years of experience and competition is high. These new employees’ eagerness for feedback stems from a desire to excel in the role. Their questions are less ‘am I the best? Do I deserve a reward?’, and more ‘what are my strengths and what can I do better?’

Why Annual Reviews Aren’t the Solution

Annual reviews are not an effective way of providing feedback. A recent survey showed that 74% of millennials feel ‘in the dark’ about how they’re performing at work and how their managers think they’re doing. This is a shocking statistic — how can we expect employees to improve or stay motivated if they don’t know how they’re doing in the first place?

Annual performance reviews are frequently a tick box exercise and take place too infrequently to be meaningful. Rather than engaging with staff in an ongoing dialogue, an annual appraisal provides a rudimentary yearly analysis that 40% of workers claim is too vague. The lack of honest communication in annual performance reviews also has negative consequences, with 62% of millennials admitting to feeling blindsided.

It’s little surprise then that around 28% of millennials respond to annual reviews by searching for a new job. All these facts have played a major part in large companies such as Microsoft, Adobe and Accenture making the switch from annual reviews to ongoing conversations feedback.

How to Use Continuous Feedback to Motivate Millennial Employees

Open Dialogue

Continuous feedback is not a one-way conversation. Continuous feedback is all about creating a meaningful dialogue between employer and employee. 32% of millennials said they don’t like it when they aren’t given a chance to share their own thoughts during feedback sessions. What they instead desire is for their manager to act as a coach, providing valuable and constructive feedback while listening to their concerns and ideas.

Regular feedback, whether through technology (such as real-time feedback sharing apps), weekly one-to-ones or monthly check-ins, all provide a space for open dialogue. Setting aside a small amount of time every week will help to ensure that your millennial employees feel that they’re being listened to, which is great for morale and even better for motivation.

Feedback and Training as a Benefit

Ping pong tables and a well-stocked fridge may be many people think are the most-desired millennial benefits, but you’d be surprised. In a recent study, training and development came out on top as the benefit most valued by millennial employees.

A culture of continuous, developmental feedback can therefore be a big sell to millennials. Think of it as ongoing training and development that seeks to continually push and inspire employees to do their best work. This continual process of observing, reflecting and learning is beneficial to both the employee and the employer and quickly turns new staff into valuable, and more importantly, long-term company assets.

Solution to Perpetual Candidacy

It’s not just company demographics that are changing — the job market is witnessing a shift too. Now, not only do employees seek employment, but employers are increasingly focusing on recruiting passive candidates — candidates that are employed and not actively looking for a job. If your staff appear engaged and motivated at work, chances are that other businesses are seeking them out.

This new recruitment tactic is surprisingly effective. Millennials are happy to ‘job-hop’ between gigs — opting for the top offer until something even better comes along. Unfortunately, this can cost your business a lot of money. It is estimated that millennial turnover costs the economy an incredible $30.5 billion annually.

Is there anything you can do to prevent this? You won’t be surprised to hear that the solution lies in providing continuous feedback. Recruiters from competitors often target dissatisfactions can be resolved through continuous feedback. By opting for regular check-ins over annual performance reviews, not only can you improve employee motivation, but you can quickly resolve employee dissatisfaction and areas of concerns, increasing employee retention.

Are you struggling to keep your millennial staff engaged? When millennials become demotivated at work, productivity, profitability and innovation all suffer. Frequent and continuous feedback is the key. Check out our performance management software for an easy solution to providing continuous feedback that is loved by both employees and managers.