Gallup's Survey Is Clear: When It Comes to Feedback, Millennials Expect It Every Day, All the Time

     

Want to know the future of performance management? It's pretty simple — you'll be talking to your employees about their performance every single day.

And how do I know this? Well, the latest research from Gallup in their report How Millennials Want to Work and Live makes this spot-on observation: 

Millennials have grown up in an era of remarkable connectedness. They're used to receiving instantaneous feedback from parents, teachers and coaches. They've grown accustomed to having the immediate ability to ask questions, share opinions and provide commentary.

Simply put, Millennials have engaged in a constant feedback loop from an early age. Given their perspective, it's understandable that this generation has an ingrained expectation for ongoing communication."

Millennials need frequent, regular feedback

Nobody should be surprised that Millennials need and expect regular and ongoing feedback, but a great many organizations are not set up for that. No, they're still struggling with how often to connect with workers on their performance, not that it should be done 24/7/365.

Gallup's research highlights this very issue, pointing out that: 

  • Only 19 percent of Millennials say they receive routine feedback.
  • An even smaller percentage of Millennials (17 percent) say the feedback they do receive is meaningful.

But here's the rub: Even though Millennials want and crave regular and constant feedback, they're not asking for it. As Gallup notes: 

Just 15 percent of Millennials strongly agree that they routinely ask for feedback. And one in three Millennials strongly agrees they've told their manager the one thing they need most to get their work done and why.

Millennials want feedback at work, but they don't necessarily ask for it. Leaders and managers might be tempted to point the finger at their youngest workers for falling short on communicating their desire for feedback. However, managers also need to take initiative and increase the amount of feedback they provide — regardless of what their millennial workers may or may not request. That initiative could have a powerful effect on employee engagement. Millennials who meet with their manager on a regular basis are more than twice as likely as their generational peers to be engaged at work."

Engagement jumps when managers connect frequently

Here's where all of this is going: When Millennials get regular feedback — that is, when they meet with their manager at least once a week — they have the very highest levels of engagement. In fact, the more managers talk with their employees, the more engaged those employees become. 

Managers, however, don't seem to get this. 

Gallup found that only 21 percent of Millennials and 18 percent of non-Millennials meet with their manager on a weekly basis. The majority of employees say they meet with their manager as infrequently as less than once a month (56 percent of Millennials and 53 percent of non-Millennials).

And Gallup also makes this critical point that good managers have known for a long time: "Ultimately, managers should strive to quickly connect with their employees every day." Yes, this may sound exhausting, especially if you manage more than a handful of employees, but connecting daily doesn't mean a big sit down meeting or formal review process.

The research found that regular, daily feedback "simply means that managers should send a text or instant message, make a quick call or drop by an employee's desk or office for a few minutes. Daily connects are not 30-minute meetings; they are meant to provide opportunities for informal, ongoing communication."

What is clear from this survey is something that a lot of companies have known for some time: annual performance reviews just aren't enough anymore, and if you weren't sure about this before, this feedback from Millennials makes it perfectly clear. 
Millenials_working.jpg

Ignore this at your own peril

Gallup's analysis of the research zeroes in on this issue, saying:  

"The feedback needs of the Millennial generation already appear to have inspired transformation in large companies, such as Deloitte, Adobe, Accenture and General Electric. These companies are abandoning their annual review processes because they have found them to be ineffective at improving employee performance or engagement. Employees need more than check-the-box evaluations, and Millennials are leading the way for this change. They will not stay with or excel at companies that relegate feedback to annual or bi-annual events."

Here's my take: If your organization hasn't revamped it's annual employee evaluation process, you need to jump on that immediately. Not only is the old system unsustainable, it may actually be working against you and lowering engagement among what should be (and what will be) the largest generation in your workforce. 

But what's more important in my book is that the tired annual review process is just a poor way to manage. Millennials are pushing us to do the right thing and connect with them daily, and good managers have known for a long time that there is great value in doing that. 

They used to call it "management by walking around," but whatever you call it, talking to your employees every day will not only pay great dividends, but it is the right thing to do. Ignore this trend at your own peril. 
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About The Author

John Hollon is Checkster's Vice President for Content. He is an award-winning journalist and nationally-recognized expert on leadership, talent management and smart workforce practices who previously was Vice President of Editorial and the founding editor of TLNT.com. Before that, John was Editor of Workforce Management magazine, the longest published HR and talent management publication in the U.S.