One of the most interesting characteristics I’ve observed in the millennial generation is their need for instant gratification. They want everything now—instant feedback, instant communication, instant rewards. Why? Because that’s how their world works.
They post to Facebook, they get comments within seconds. They take a photo, it appears immediately on their phone, and half a minute later it’s on Instagram collecting likes. Text messaging, online banking, Netflix—this generation has been raised with the world at their fingertips, and they know no other way.
Some of you, on the other hand, remember rotary dial phones and Polaroid cameras. And you think millennials need to learn to hold their horses, just like you did. Kids today, right?
I have news for you. Ten years from now those kids will constitute the majority of the American workforce. And businesses that are taking steps today to assimilate, motivate and retain young professionals will hold an advantage over those employers who lag behind, expecting youngsters to operate the old way.
What is the “old way” when it comes to feedback?
Annual reviews, for starters. Many employers think they’re doing just fine because they have a solid annual or semi-annual review process in place. But just like a millennial wouldn’t dream of waiting six months for a re-tweet, they don’t plan to wait around until the official scheduled review to find out where they stand with their employer. They crave continual feedback. And that’s not a bad thing.
Think about it. If you provide feedback the moment a success or failure occurs—which is what your young workforce wants—you have a far greater chance of capitalizing on it. Either you’ll foster further success by affirming the employee’s performance, or you’ll nip poor performance in the bud and give the employee a faster chance to turn things around.
My recommendation? Don’t go longer than two weeks between feedback sessions. I typically try to provide feedback to my interns at least once a week during one-on-one meetings, officially, but I’m also affirming or advising them on a daily basis as I see the chance. Look for any opportunity to help them grow and develop. Maybe they sent a helpful e-mail or stepped in to assist a colleague at crunch time. Maybe you have advice about how they presented themselves to an executive or were impressed with a millennial’s innovative idea. Don’t be afraid to offer praise as well as pinpoint room for improvement. Both are necessary. Millennials want to learn, and they’re okay with criticism. Without it, they won’t grow, and neither will your organization.
So if you think you’re providing adequate feedback to your workforce, especially your millennials, think again. Examine the frequency and format of that feedback. Regular feedback doesn’t have to happen in a formal review. The best input comes in daily conversation. It’s called mentoring. And ultimately, by investing your time and attention in your young employees’ professional and personal development, you’re helping your organization grow along with its workforce. I call that a win-win.