Millennial Feedback
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Good Feedback for Millennials—and Everyone Else

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I keep hearing that millennial employees want a lot of feedback. Isn’t our annual performance review enough?

A: Every employee wants feedback—millennials are just more comfortable than others asking for it. Your performance review process, no matter how good it is, just won’t cut it with this generation. They want to know how they are doing, and they want that feedback on a regular basis.

Millennials, in general, were raised on positive reinforcement, and especially when they are new to the workforce they may be surprised if they hear that their work needs improvement. Good managers know the value of giving constructive feedback, both positive and negative, and they know that it should not be saved up for the annual performance review. This goes for all employees, not just millennials.

Good feedback needs to be specific, whether it’s positive or negative.

For example, you might tell your staffer, “You did a good job today.” That’s nice to hear but not very informative. It would be much better to say, “You did a good job today when you handled that sticky issue with the member who was unhappy about his newsletter subscription. I liked the way you listened to his complaints without being defensive before you offered a solution. You showed me that you genuinely value our members and that you can help them in creative ways. Thanks for doing a great job today.”

Good managers know the value of giving constructive feedback, both positive and negative, and they know that it should not be saved up for the annual performance review.  

When you need to deliver negative feedback, always do it in private. Describe the behavior you want to see changed—and, again, be as specific as possible. For example, don’t say, “Well, you sure didn’t have it together in the meeting today.” Rather, it’s better to say, “I observed that you weren’t prepared for your presentation today, and that’s not like you. You didn’t seem to have the handouts ready and your PowerPoint slides weren’t up to your usual standards. Is there something I can do to help you be better prepared for next week’s meeting?”

Anytime you give negative feedback, focus on the behavior and not the person. The employee should understand that, while she may have done something to disappoint you, your concern is over what she did, not who she is.

It’s not just the millennials on your staff who want feedback. Make it a priority to provide regular, detailed, helpful feedback to everyone on your team.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Performance Management