Shining a Light on Feedback for Second-Wave Millennials

Imagine your assignment is to make your way from one end of a dark cave to the other. You have all the right gear, and been given very detailed instructions, but no flashlight. This is what its like for many Second-Wave Millennials in the workplace. If the cave is a metaphor for the workplace, a flashlight is a metaphor for feedback. Feedback is the shining light that tells employees where they are going and how they are doing. Most managers today do not provide enough of it.

In an earlier blog post, we talked about Millennials’ Hierarchy of Needs — a framework that identifies 5 core “needs” for Millennials and prioritizes them in a pyramid, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We discussed the base of the pyramid—Structure, which provides basic information about what their job is (and isn’t), sets expectations and defines the rules.

Just above that base of structure is Feedback. Feedback is an important element for Millennials and, like other parts of this pyramid, this is amplified for Second-Wave Millennials.

Why More Feedback for Millennials?

As a manager, you may be pondering… Why so much feedback? I never needed that early on. Here’s why: Ever since they were young, Millennials were tested and graded at an alarming frequency. They have been conditioned more than previous generations to expect quick and frequent feedback on their performance. For this generation, the “annual performance review” is akin to a fax machine — “People still do that?!”

Speed is everything for Second-Wavers, and social media apps like Snap reinforce the ‘always-on’ nature of their daily feedback loop from their friends. Video games provide ”badges” and “levels” that reward and track performance. We do not expect that they will grow out of it any time soon. This is long-term conditioning, and it is coming to the workplace.

This is the generation that grew up with “Google” as a verb. What happens when you do a Google search? You get the information immediately. Millennials don’t know (and won’t accept) anything else.

Consider this: Some schools have done away with textbooks and now only use iPads. everyone in the school has an iPad, and there are no pencils or pens. When they do homework, they get feedback electronically almost instantaneously.

How Often Feedback and What Method?

 This makes many managers cringe, but the fact is that you probably need to give your Second-Wave Millennial employees feedback every day — multiple times, in fact. Especially in their first year. But don’t complicate things, just set up daily, 5-minute check-ins and ask three questions: What did you accomplish yesterday? What is your plan for today? And… How can I help you? If you are doing this right, it will only take a few minutes and will really keep them on track.  

Another great way to make sure they have regular feedback is to encourage them to set up their own auto-feedback through the myriads of apps designed for this very purpose. There are some cool apps out there perfect for these Second-Wavers I’d recommend: Rescue Time sends weekly reports with feedback on how you are doing. Focus Booster is based in the Pomodoro method with “focus time” alternating with “break time.” Forest, where the user plants virtual trees associated with project schedules that grow for reaching goals. These apps may never work for you, but they may be just perfect for your Second-Wavers, who have grown to trust and depend on apps for nearly everything.

Get them out of that dark cave and into the light. Give them the tools, and be there for meaningful and frequent feedback.

Warren Wright