Creating a Millennial Feedback Loop In the Workplace

One third of Millennials are unhappy in their current job and likely to quit in the next six months. Here's a potential solution.

May 11, 2017 – Now that Millennials make up more than half of the American workforce, HR professionals are increasingly concerned about how to best cater to their workplace needs. Talent acquisition leaders recommend everything from nontraditional employee benefits like telecommuting and flexible leave to glamorous team retreats to help managers bolster their Millennial appeal. Problem is, it’s not working.

Millennials are more likely than GenXers or Baby Boomers to quit their job in the next six months, and nearly a third of them say that is exactly what they plan to do. A new survey by Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews site, finds that Millennials more often than not report less job fulfillment than the generations of workers before them.

HR experts in the Clutch report argue that one of the best ways to appeal to the Millennial demographic is simpler, though perhaps more difficult, than providing flashy employee perks. The best way to keep Millennial employees engaged, they say, is through a consistent, accurate, and immediate feedback loop. Clutch surveyed Millennial, GenX, and Baby Boomer full-time employees to take a closer look at employee feedback in the workplace and how it can help, or hurt, Millennial engagement.

Instant Feedback

The frequency, consistency, and type of feedback directly correlates to a Millennial’s desire to quit their job, the survey found. “The more traditional models of providing feedback are less liked by Millennials. They want more emphasis on instant feedback and the immediate connection to the work that they’re doing,” said Joe Carella, assistant dean for the Eller College of Management, University of Arizona. Mr. Carella has 20 years of experience helping companies develop talent.

“Millennials are a generation that wants positive feedback immediately and to be making forward momentum in their lives at all times,” said Smooch R. Reynolds, global investor relations and communications practice group leader with DHR International. “This is a restless generation, in some respects, that demands a ‘feedback loop’ that is different than what managers have been expected to provide in the past.”

Appealing to Millennials

In this sixth episode of our 10-part podcast series, ‘Working with Millennials,’ we feature another highly informative Q&A with Smooch Reynolds, DHR International’s global investor relations and communications practice group leader. According to Ms. Reynolds, HR professionals are increasingly concerned about how to best cater to Millennials’ workplace needs. Talent acquisition leaders recommend certain employee benefits to help mangers bolster their appeal. Problem is, it’s not working. Listen Now.

According to the Clutch survey, Millennials are less likely to be fulfilled at work and more likely to quit than older age demographic groups. Of the Millennials that took part in the survey, 32 percent said they are likely to leave their job within the next six months. Only 12 percent of older employees are likely to quit in that same timeframe. What’s more, 40 percent of Millennials do not consider themselves fulfilled at work, which is nearly two times greater than GenX employees and almost four times greater than Baby Boomers.

According to the report, there are all sorts of reasons why Millennials statistically find less fulfillment in their careers. Among them: they tend to crave a ‘laundry list’ of nontraditional perks, they haven’t yet singled out a permanent career path, and they tend to work less interesting, entry-level positions. Most importantly, Millennial communication styles are at odds with formal year-end performance reviews common to most businesses in the U.S. Managers attempting to increase Millennial engagement may struggle to meet all of these expectations, concluded the report from Clutch.

Common Criticisms 

Clutch’s survey supports other expert opinion that managerial feedback and evaluation are tied to Millennial fulfillment. Of the Millennials whose managers do provide accurate and consistent feedback, 72 percent find their job fulfilling. Of the Millennials whose managers do not provide accurate and consistent feedback, only 38 percent find their job fulfilling. A communicative and supportive manager is indicative of a work environment that allows for the kind of growth and self-exploration many Millennials crave early in their careers.

“The responsibilities of leaders today is to define effectively how best to engage this generation in a consistent, frequent and direct manner – show them you are interested and paying attention as their boss,” said Ms. Reynolds. “Who doesn’t like to hear, ‘Job well done,’ on a real time basis?”

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One of the most common criticisms levied against the Millennial generation is that they are too demanding of their workplace and their managers. Because experts in the Clutch report point to feedback and evaluation as a vital aspect of Millennial engagement, they say it is important to address this criticism: are Millennials unfulfilled simply because they are judging their managers too harshly? Why should managers drastically change their actions when Millennials are just expecting too much?

The Clutch survey shows that Millennials are just as harsh as older generations when it comes to judging the evaluative success of their manager. Slightly under 60 percent of each generation agrees that their manager accurately and consistently evaluates their performance, Millennials included. Indeed, Millennials aren’t judging their managers unfairly, they just don’t seem to resonate with the traditional communication styles most managers employ.

“The more traditional models of providing feedback are less liked by Millennials. They want more emphasis on instant feedback and the immediate connection to the work that they’re doing,” said Mr. Carella. “In general, Millennials are more collaborative than previous generations are. That collaboration means they are more open to continuous exchanges about the work that gets done, which in turn translates to the openness and the desire for more immediate feedback.”

Creating a Millennial Feedback System That Works

Clutch’s survey shows that while Millennials aren’t excessively judging their managers, there are still 41 percent of them who feel neutral to negative on their manager’s ability to provide accurate and consistent feedback. This statistic represents a huge missed opportunity for managers attempting to decrease Millennial attrition at their company.

So, how can managers remedy this problem? Clutch’s survey asked employees to name the types of feedback they receive from their managers. Only 23 percent of Millennials said they received the informal/ad-hoc feedback that experts favor over traditional communication methods. One of the first steps employers can take towards bettering their Millennial employees’ workplace experience is by offering a more varied and more suitable feedback system, says the report.

“I was surprised that informal and ad hoc feedback wasn’t higher for Millennials [in Clutch’s study] because that’s what they need,” said Morgan Chaney, head of marketing for employee rewards and recognition company Blueboard. “Hopefully that changes as more companies are aware of the notion of informal or real-time feedback.” Creating a feedback system that is genuine, consistent, and immediate will set you on the path to better retain young talent and create a work environment that fosters their desire to grow professionally and personally.

Adopting a new feedback process is not limited to benefiting Millennial employees. “What [Millennials] want and what they thrive on is actually what a lot of people would probably thrive on. Obviously, we would all do very well with passion and purpose in our career, but older segments have just been used to the status quo and have really different motivators,” said Ms. Chaney.

“Be their partner as well as a great role model – every young professional in every generation needs a mentor,” Ms. Reynolds said. “The trick to being successful at this is to do it in such a way that they won’t know it is even happening. What they will know is that they are becoming increasingly successful, getting more career opportunities to keep them engaged, and increasing their pay. All good trends to fuel.”

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Adam Shapiro, Podcast Editor — Hunt Scanlon Media

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