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Is Continuous Feedback the Key to Motivating Millennials at Work?

People sitting at a desk working on their laptops.

Nar­cis­sis­tic, child­ish, demand­ing — the so-called every­body gets a tro­phy’ mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion gets a bad rap. But are we mak­ing a mis­take? We should be lis­ten­ing to mil­len­ni­als and tak­ing time to under­stand their demands for reg­u­lar con­tin­u­ous feed­back to keep them motivated.

The face of busi­ness is chang­ing. Today one-in-three Amer­i­can work­ers are mil­len­ni­als and it’s esti­mat­ed that by 2020, mil­len­ni­als will make up half of the entire work­force. The future of the work­place rests on the shoul­ders of this new demo­graph­ic. But accord­ing to recent stud­ies, only 29% of mil­len­ni­al work­ers are engaged with their work and a strik­ing 44% say they expect to leave their cur­rent employ­ment in the next two years. The num­ber one rea­son? Lack of con­struc­tive and con­tin­u­ous feedback.

More than any oth­er gen­er­a­tion, mil­len­ni­als crave con­tin­u­ous feed­back to stay moti­vat­ed at work. But their demands are often met with crit­i­cism. Shroud­ed in accu­sa­tions of child­ish­ness and the inabil­i­ty to work inno­v­a­tive­ly and autonomous­ly, many com­pa­nies are fail­ing to change their per­for­mance man­age­ment mod­el to address these new demands. How­ev­er, fail­ure to imple­ment these changes could have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for companies

In this post, we’ll break down the truth behind the mil­len­ni­al need for feed­back. We’ll dis­cuss how the desire for con­tin­u­ous feed­back is actu­al­ly a pos­i­tive thing for your busi­ness and how you can lever­age it to cre­ate a more pos­i­tive and moti­vat­ed workforce.

Why Do Mil­len­ni­als Want Con­tin­u­ous Feedback?

To effec­tive­ly man­age our work­force, we need to under­stand our work­ers’ moti­va­tions and desires. So, let’s start with some myth-busting.

Mil­len­ni­als Don’t Require Con­tin­u­ous Feed­back Because They’re Spoilt

Mil­len­ni­als’ demands reflect their real­i­ty. They have grown up in the dig­i­tal age. Speed and imme­di­a­cy have become the norm. Social media and Google search­es have engaged them in a con­stant feed­back loop from an ear­ly age. From ask­ing ques­tions to shar­ing opin­ions and pro­vid­ing com­men­tary, the inter­net has cre­at­ed a cul­ture of ongo­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In this time of intense con­nect­ed­ness, the need to receive instan­ta­neous feed­back should there­fore be expected.

Con­tin­u­ous Feed­back Is Not Nev­er-End­ing Praise

Mil­len­ni­als aren’t nar­cis­sis­tic: they’re uncer­tain. Too often, demands for con­tin­u­ous feed­back are con­flat­ed with a self-indul­gent need for con­tin­u­ous praise. But that’s sim­ply not the case. In a high­ly com­pet­i­tive work­force, mil­len­ni­als desire feed­back because they want con­struc­tive guid­ance. Many entry-lev­el jobs now ask for between one and three years of expe­ri­ence and com­pe­ti­tion is high. These new employ­ees’ eager­ness for feed­back stems from a desire to excel in the role. Their ques­tions are less am I the best? Do I deserve a reward?’, and more what are my strengths and what can I do better?’

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Why Annu­al Reviews Aren’t the Solution

Annu­al reviews are not an effec­tive way of pro­vid­ing feed­back. A recent sur­vey showed that 74% of mil­len­ni­als feel in the dark’ about how they’re per­form­ing at work and how their man­agers think they’re doing. This is a shock­ing sta­tis­tic — how can we expect employ­ees to improve or stay moti­vat­ed if they don’t know how they’re doing in the first place?

Annu­al per­for­mance reviews are fre­quent­ly a tick box exer­cise and take place too infre­quent­ly to be mean­ing­ful. Rather than engag­ing with staff in an ongo­ing dia­logue, an annu­al appraisal pro­vides a rudi­men­ta­ry year­ly analy­sis that 40% of work­ers claim is too vague. The lack of hon­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion in annu­al per­for­mance reviews also has neg­a­tive con­se­quences, with 62% of mil­len­ni­als admit­ting to feel­ing blind­sided.

It’s lit­tle sur­prise then that around 28% of mil­len­ni­als respond to annu­al reviews by search­ing for a new job. All these facts have played a major part in large com­pa­nies such as Microsoft, Adobe and Accen­ture mak­ing the switch from annu­al reviews to ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tions feedback.

How to Use Con­tin­u­ous Feed­back to Moti­vate Mil­len­ni­al Employees

Open Dia­logue

Con­tin­u­ous feed­back, as part of con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment is not a one-way con­ver­sa­tion. Con­tin­u­ous feed­back is all about cre­at­ing a mean­ing­ful dia­logue between employ­er and employ­ee. 32% of mil­len­ni­als said they don’t like it when they aren’t giv­en a chance to share their own thoughts dur­ing feed­back ses­sions. What they instead desire is for their man­ag­er to act as a coach, pro­vid­ing valu­able and con­struc­tive feed­back while lis­ten­ing to their con­cerns and ideas.

Reg­u­lar feed­back, whether through tech­nol­o­gy (such as real-time feed­back shar­ing apps), week­ly one-to-ones or month­ly check-ins, all pro­vide a space for open dia­logue. Set­ting aside a small amount of time every week will help to ensure that your mil­len­ni­al employ­ees feel that they’re being lis­tened to, which is great for morale and even bet­ter for motivation.

Feed­back and Train­ing as a Benefit

Ping pong tables and a well-stocked fridge may be many peo­ple think are the most-desired mil­len­ni­al ben­e­fits, but you’d be sur­prised. In a recent study, train­ing and devel­op­ment came out on top as the ben­e­fit most val­ued by mil­len­ni­al employees.

A cul­ture of con­tin­u­ous, devel­op­men­tal feed­back can there­fore be a big sell to mil­len­ni­als. Think of it as ongo­ing train­ing and devel­op­ment that seeks to con­tin­u­al­ly push and inspire employ­ees to do their best work. This con­tin­u­al process of observ­ing, reflect­ing and learn­ing is ben­e­fi­cial to both the employ­ee and the employ­er and quick­ly turns new staff into valu­able, and more impor­tant­ly, long-term com­pa­ny assets.

Solu­tion to Per­pet­u­al Candidacy

It’s not just com­pa­ny demo­graph­ics that are chang­ing — the job mar­ket is wit­ness­ing a shift too. Now, not only do employ­ees seek employ­ment, but employ­ers are increas­ing­ly focus­ing on recruit­ing pas­sive can­di­dates — can­di­dates that are employed and not active­ly look­ing for a job. If your staff appear engaged and moti­vat­ed at work, chances are that oth­er busi­ness­es are seek­ing them out.

This new recruit­ment tac­tic is sur­pris­ing­ly effec­tive. Mil­len­ni­als are hap­py to job-hop’ between gigs — opt­ing for the top offer until some­thing even bet­ter comes along. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this can cost your busi­ness a lot of mon­ey. It is esti­mat­ed that mil­len­ni­al turnover costs the econ­o­my an incred­i­ble $30.5 bil­lion annually.

Is there any­thing you can do to pre­vent this? You won’t be sur­prised to hear that the solu­tion lies in pro­vid­ing con­tin­u­ous feed­back. Recruiters from com­peti­tors often tar­get dis­sat­is­fac­tions can be resolved through con­tin­u­ous feed­back. By opt­ing for reg­u­lar check-ins over annu­al per­for­mance reviews, not only can you improve employ­ee moti­va­tion, but you can quick­ly resolve employ­ee dis­sat­is­fac­tion and areas of con­cerns, increas­ing employ­ee retention.

Are you strug­gling to keep your mil­len­ni­al staff engaged? When mil­len­ni­als become demo­ti­vat­ed at work, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, prof­itabil­i­ty and inno­va­tion all suf­fer. Fre­quent and con­tin­u­ous feed­back is the key. Check out our per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware for an easy solu­tion to pro­vid­ing con­tin­u­ous feed­back that is loved by both employ­ees and managers.