HR & Management

5 ways continuous feedback motivates millennial workers

7 min read

28 August 2018

Many baby-boomer bosses find the world of millennials completely alien. While it’s not necessary to understand their penchant for niche podcasts and emoji code, managers need to grasp the changes millennials are making to the workplace.

Millennials are changing the demographics of business – it’s estimated that, by 2020, they will make up over half of the global workforceFurthermore, this new generation of workers are bringing some radical and innovative ideas to the workplace.

More than previous generations, millennials demand continuous feedback to stay motivated. They crave and expect an ongoing and regular managerial style and are quick to jump ship if those demands aren’t met.

Businesses have been slow to respond and have, for too long, ignored these demands, seeing them as evidence of narcissism and childishness. The result?  29% of millennial workers are engaged at work, with 44% claiming they expect to leave their current employment within two years.

Managers need to motivate their millennial staff, drive down costly turnovers and improve their workforces’ productivity and profitability – but how? By using continuous feedback.

Reality check: reflecting the digital age

Each generation is informed by the culture and society in which they grow up and millennials are no different. Millennials have grown up in the digital age and their reality and sense of temporality is informed by this technological environment.

Their world is one of speed and immediacy in which questions, opinions and commentary are engaged in the continuous feedback loop of search engines and social media. The internet has created a culture of ongoing communication and intense connectedness, so it comes as no surprise that millennials expect the same standards at work.

The old model of annual performance reviews doesn’t work anymore.  Annual reviews provide a rudimentary yearly analysis that 40% of workers claim is too vague. Hastily, and often lazily, put together, a shocking 62% of millennials admit to feeling demotivated by annual reviews. Further studies show 74% of millennials feel ‘in the dark’ about how they’re performing at work.

It’s because of this that 28% of millennials respond to yearly feedback by searching for a new job. It’s time for a change and continuous feedback may be the answer. 

Open channels of communication: ongoing dialogue

Managerial conversations are often a one-way affair. The manager says their piece and the conversation ends. But millennials want to share their opinions and ideas in a constructive and structured environment – and have the opportunity to develop through dialogue.

In fact, 32% of millennials dislike not having the opportunity to share their thoughts. Irregular feedback keeps the conversation one-sided and provides little room for dialogue. 

Regularity keeps the lines of communication open. Whether on a smartphone, laptop or in person, weekly meetings or daily catch-ups keep the conversation flowing. A small commitment every day or week is all it takes to ensure your millennial staff feel like they’re being listened to. 

It addresses millennial uncertainty

One of the most damaging misconceptions of millennials’ desire for continuous feedback is the claim of narcissism. But this scathing opinion – that millennials are the ‘trophy’ generation – couldn’t be further from the truth.

Millennials are uncertain. Previously, the biggest hurdle an individual would face was getting their foot in the door. From there, they would slowly work their way up the company ladder. Today, there’s no such security. Entry-level jobs often demand two years or more experience – and competition is high. When a millennial asks for feedback, it stems from a desire to excel in their role. 

Continuous feedback is a much-needed security blanket for uncertain staff. When they know where they stand and how they’re performing, they’re better equipped to progress and develop. It’s a small thing, but continuous feedback works wonders for morale and loyalty.

It helps track personal development

You may be surprised to hear the benefit most valued by millennial employees is training and development. Alongside more formal training programs, continuous feedback is a form of training in itself. Regular check-ins help to establish pragmatic next steps and set clear objectives.

The continual process of appraisal and evaluation also helps identify and track areas that require development. Ultimately, investing small pockets of time at regular intervals shows your employees that you’re willing to help them with their personal development and professional advancement. For an ambitious employee, that’s a precious, but rare, thing.

Continuous feedback highlights problems that could lead to job-hopping

The demographic of workers is not the only thing changing. Employers are increasingly focused on recruiting candidates that are employed and not actively seeking another job. This puts you at a risk of losing your best staff. Millennial employees understand this new climate and are happy to hop between companies, especially for a higher salary.

Fortunately, it’s easy to keep turnover low. Once again, continuous feedback is the answer. Many employees will leave their current employment for small, but unaddressed, grievances. Continuous feedback ensures that nothing falls between the cracks. It allows you to monitor your employees’ experiences and get their feedback on any issues they’re facing, meaning you can identify and implement a solution as and when concerns arise.

Millennial concepts aren’t as alien as they first appear. Millennials are products of their time and, if you want to excel in contemporary business, it’s essential to work with them and not against them. When millennials become demotivated, productivity, innovation and profitability take a hit. Continuous feedback can be used to keep your workforce motivated.

Stuart Hearn has over 20 years of experience in HR and is the CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software company.