"Is feedback really as important to Millennials as we've heard?" The accounting senior manager asked me in a workshop I was giving on best work practices for each generation.
Yes, I told them. Millennials' expectations are different from the older generations'. Millennials grew up with highly involved parents coaching them, instant access online to grades, and thousands of texts with their friends. Mentoring programs are one of the top two soft benefits Millennials look for at an organization. Less than one in ten Millennials think weekly communication is enough. In fact, 35 percent want it multiple times a day, while 25 percent think once a day is fine.
"Especially if you're a Boomer, take the amount of feedback you would want, and then double it. Then double it again, and you'll meet the Millennials halfway," I said.
The group erupted in an audible moan. One manager said what the others were clearly thinking: "I'm already working way too much. How am I going to find the time to give Millennials all the feedback they want?"
One of the biggest challenges to feedback is that we're making it too difficult. You can give more feedback without adding another two hours to your day if you make it better and shorter but more frequent.
Better. Ask your team members what kind of feedback they want to receive. They know their own preferences and can keep you from wasting time on feedback that isn't as helpful to them.
Shorter. Those of us who have been trained through years of annual performance appraisal processes see feedback as a more formal, lengthy, often emotionally-charged interaction, so we think we don't have time or energy to double our feedback. And we don't. Thank goodness less formal, shorter feedback is better. Boomers talk too much. Millennials and many Xers don't want the long stories.
More frequent. Think Twitter -- how would you say it in 140 characters or less? E-mail your team members (or text them) short, pointed feedback more often. (Or you could just tell them, but that's so old school.)
An additional way managers can ensure their people get more feedback without working around the clock is to request short, pointed feedback from other employees about something specific, such as a presentation their direct report made or a project he or she led. Let the feedback givers decide whether they want their feedback to be anonymous. The manager can then summarize the feedback and share it with the employee.
Some managers have found an even better way of increasing feedback without working late every night. They encourage their teams to ask each other for short, pointed feedback on specific behaviors, competencies, or work products.
You don't need any special tools to give your people better, shorter, more frequent feedback. You can use e-mail, instant messaging, or texting. But over time, social media-like tools will make the process of providing better, shorter, more frequent feedback easier.
Work.com, used by Facebook, is one example. It's no surprise that Facebook would want a more informal feedback system, one that felt more natural to their Millennial employees. As Molly Graham, then the head of culture and engagement for Facebook, said, "This is a company designed by Millennials for Millennials."
Work.com (previously named Rypple) allows people to request feedback, give feedback, assign badges (it's a social media thing), thank one another, and see progress on key team and individual goals. It creates a running scoreboard from each individual's feedback that also makes it easier for managers to put together annual or biannual performance appraisals. This system, and others like it, encourages frequent rather than formal feedback.
Any technology that makes feedback better, shorter, and more frequent is going to help all generations, even if it feels "Millennial."
Haydn Shaw is the author of Sticking Points: How to Get Four Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart. He blogs about generations, leadership, change management, and teams at mygenerationalcoach.com.