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Gen Y’s Feedback on Your Feedback

August 14, 2013
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Poor feedback is one of the top reasons Gen Y's leave organizations, making it an imperative for their supervisors to focus more closely on it.

Because millennials’ parents and teachers have given them instantaneous responses, they expect real-time feedback and constant check-ins with their supervisors. Roy Saunderson, chief learning officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, said this is a welcome change. Older workers are embracing this. But how does this change how learning leaders provide feedback and teach leaders to conduct performance reviews? Saunderson has the answers.

What sort of feedback does Gen Y want? What about older generations?

Saunderson: Gen Y wants immediate, positive and engaging feedback. Their world is filled with constant feedback and they expect the same at work, too. It seems Gen Y wants feedback at the speed of texting or instant messaging and at the click of a button.

[caption id="attachment_3945" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Roy Saunderson, chief learning officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute."][/caption]

This might be because Gen Ys are used to constant praise from parents, teachers and coaches. Prolonged silence can be taken as disapproval. Learning leaders should make sure to tell them what they are doing right as well as what they are doing wrong. Strive for fast turnaround of any kind of feedback.

Personally, I remember having to complete a handwritten annual performance appraisal only to have the actual face-to-face meeting rescheduled over and over again until another year rolled around. And sometimes many in previous generations have just had to stop a boss and ask, “Could you please tell me how I am doing?”

Generation Y doesn’t wait to ask, they expect to know, and right now. Their on-demand expectation for feedback is impacting the other generations before them to want similar communication.

What are some other similarities and differences?

Saunderson: Everyone values feedback, so that is the good news across the generations. A leader’s secret weapon is to use feedback as often as they can.

Respect is a common value across all generations and cultures, so give what feedback you can when you can and help everyone understand one another’s expectations as well as the reality and limitations.

Use multiple forms of communication from the face-to-face, 1:1 feedback session of 10 to 15 minutes, at least monthly, to emails, messaging and texts for fast-time responsive acknowledgment and direction. Use various forms of shareware and online recognition tools to express and share appreciation to peers.

Don’t cookie cutter your feedback to be the same for all generations. Find out what works best for each person and negotiate and explain what you can and cannot do to accommodate. The more transparent you are, the better feedback you will give.

Generations are different, and it has only become a major issue since we started labeling everyone. Each time period has different social, economic and cultural contexts, which impacts how we behave. The result is a different set of values across each generation, which is good and understandable. But with all these varying expectations, the inevitable conflicts will always be present.

Generation Y has been doted on by child-centered parents who had more time to do so, and they grew up in a very social and Internet-connected world. Their world is full of connections and interaction with people at all levels of work and society within a techno-savvy mindset.

We just need to understand and appreciate one another and our differences and make time for one another’s needs. In other words, simply care about each other.

How is the way we give feedback changing over time?

Saunderson: Feedback has changed over time along three dimensions: method, frequency and speed.

As I shared before, we have changed from the once a year performance appraisal to the online social media stream of immediate feedback. This is impacting our work by requiring us to make time to connect with one another online and by phone more often than we might like. However, planning in “connecting time” can help us to better attract, recognize and keep our employees. We will also break down silos, encourage collaboration and innovation and prevent more mistakes along the way as we do so.

While we are now much more text driven in our feedback based on Gen Y's insatiable appetite for technology, we need to incorporate more direct or video-captured face time to build and maintain positive relationships that fall through the cracks of the texted word. We can utilize gamification rules such as badges and leader boards to also encourage and reinforce the act of giving feedback.

What do employees want from the feedback?

Saunderson: Feedback has not changed over the years. We all like commendation, exchanging of ideas, redirection when we’re off track and recommendations for next steps to take.

To accommodate these needs, our feedback today needs to include:

Think individually: Stop thinking in groups — as generations — and start thinking of people as individuals. Find out how each person personally desires to receive feedback on ideas and performance-related matters and how they want to be appreciated. Strive to personalize the feedback you give.

Appreciate everyone: Everyone wants to know they are valued and appreciated for their contributions. They need to know they are making a difference and how their work is helping people and the organization achieve its vision. However, you are not going to recognize people every minute or praise someone every second. Spell out the parameters and expectations so everyone knows. Just do it.

Ensure two-way dialogue: People want feedback to be a two-way exchange of ideas, suggestions for improvement and acknowledgment for successes. Each should be able to ask how they can be doing more or less of anything to make things better between them or in behalf of the company. Making this a two-way experience will help cross the generation barriers.

Take time: Each of us must commit to the progress and welfare of each person we connect with regularly, whether in person or remotely, and encourage them to grow. Such growth of all people in an organization relies on the feedback we give and receive from each other.

Giving good feedback can be one of the most rewarding experiences we will have in our daily work life. Don’t let generational differences get in the way.

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