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Give Effective Feedback to Millennials

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on November 1, 2010

Many business owners have noticed that the new crop of young workers is different from previous generations and are adjusting their management styles accordingly. One key difference? Millennials expect constant feedback on their performance. Here’s how to make sure the feedback you provide them is effective:

1. Balance negatives with positives. Explain not just what employees are doing wrong, but what aspects of the job they are doing right. Millennials need to feel like valued team members, so emphasize how their work contributes to the group—and how, by making changes, they can contribute even more.

2. Be specific and behavioral. Boomers often approach problems holistically or theoretically. Millennials, who are far more focused on behavioral dos and don’ts, find this vague, confusing, and negative. Managers should offer detailed, specific instructions about how young employees can adjust their behavior to optimize performance.

3. Create a "co-solution." Millennials will respond well to having their input sought and valued, even in a conversation about poor performance. Rather than simply dictating, ask if they have any ideas about what they could do differently. Many will have constructive suggestions—and will be more motivated if they feel they are part of the solution.

4. Establish a follow-up regimen. Create a concrete plan for how employees will adjust their work, with measurable benchmarks along the way. Check in at regular intervals to make sure they stay on track with the plan. When you see specific improvements, let employees know you noticed and give positive feedback on the spot.

Neil Howe
Founding Partner and President
Lifecourse Associates
Great Falls, Va.

Reader Comments


November 2, 2010 9:40 PM

Hi Neil.
While I agree that feedback is important, I not sure how your recommendations on how to best give feedback to Millennials differ from recommendations I've seen on how to give feedback to someone from any other generation. Your recommendations could be equally valid true for feedback given to Gen X-ers.
And regarding the desire for constant feedback - I would say that while regular feedback is good, in some instances it's not necessarily a healthy trait. It could be a sign of low self confidence and self knowledge, as well as, for Millennials, learned behavior arising from being reared by late boomer / early Gen X parents who showered their children with praise and over-protected them from pain and criticism. Should managers reinforce that by pandering to some Millennials' desires to constantly "take the temperature" of those around them?
Thanks! DAN

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