Frequent feedback is essential for employee engagement. According to Gallup, employees that receive feedback from their managers (even if it’s exclusively negative feedback) are 20X more likely to be engaged at work than their coworkers who receive no feedback at all.
According to a recent survey of 649 HR professionals, one of the most important traits in a manager is their ability to provide feedback. Unfortunately, more than a third of those HR pros said that giving feedback was the coaching behavior managers in their organization were worst at.
What makes feedback so difficult? People on both sides of a feedback conversation have been conditioned to see “feedback” as a bad thing. “Feedback” means someone did something wrong and need to hear about it; it’s usually too late to do anything about it, but they’ll hear about it anyway.
Unlike other generations, millennials embrace feedback. According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, millennials want feedback 50% more often than non-millennials. What do Millennials know about feedback that helps them see it as a key performance improver rather than a terrifying task?
Here are 4 things millennials know about feedback that make it more comfortable for everyone involved.
1. Feedback improves future performance.
You can’t change past performance, but you can use it as a roadmap for the future. Think of feedback like drawing an arrow in a bow. Draw an employee’s attention to their past performance only so that you can launch forward together. Future-focused feedback is:
Specific — vague feedback leaves employees knowing they did something wrong (or right), but not knowing how to fix it (or replicate it).
Actionable — feedback should be overtly tied back to a clear, pre-determined goal. Draw connections between feedback and success.
Timely — feedback should fit the cadence of business so employees can use the feedback to improve on their next task, whether that means giving feedback once a quarter or once a day. Learn more about why an annual performance review just won’t cut it in this article by NY Times Bestselling Author, Alan Fine. [link to: Time to Blow up Perf Reviews]
2. Fact-based feedback is less emotional.
Feedback gets complicated when emotions get involved, but facts can’t be argued. Facts center around performance metrics and data, not personality flaws or character traits. Don’t call someone out as a procrastinator; instead, candidly discuss the three reports they’ve turned in late this month and work together to create an improvement plan for the future.
3. Feedback can be positive.
In a study by Gallup, managers who received strengths feedback showed 12.5% greater productivity and 8.9% greater profitability than their counterparts who received no feedback at all. Feedback doesn’t have to be a dirty word; more often than not, feedback should be positive reinforcement.
4. The best feedback is expected feedback.
Feedback should never be a complete surprise. Check in on progress frequently throughout a project and make course corrections along the way. Create a culture of feedback by routinely giving both positive and negative feedback. Make simple feedback a part of your everyday conversations. Done right, slight feedback will correct any problems before a really tough conversation is needed.
BONUS TIP: Feedback doesn’t have to be long and arduous. You can have a check-in or feedback conversation in just three questions:
1. What’s working?
Whether it’s a project update, a weekly 1:1 or a quarterly review, ask the employee what they think is going well. Then share your thoughts on what you see working. It starts the conversation off on the right foot.
2. Where are you getting stuck?
Give the employee a chance to express where they’re seeing problems. They may address their own problems or technical/communication difficulties. Once you know where the employee is stuck, you can share additional concerns.
3. What might you do differently?
This question bookends the conversation by coming up with solutions to the aforementioned problems. It keeps the conversation future-focused.
With these three questions in your arsenal, you’re ready to approach feedback with the mindset of a millennial – ready to use future-focused feedback to improve performance.