Today, millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, accounting for more than one-third of workers. It may have been possible to ignore millennials' need for continuous feedback in the past, but those days are over. Forty-four percent of millennials expect to leave their current roles in the next two years. If you want millennial workers to stick around for the long term, you'll need to give them what they want.
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But before we get into how you can retain your millennial workers, let's start by looking at why millennials want feedback so much in the first place:
Why Do They Need So Much Feedback, Anyway?
Contrary to popular belief, millennials are not looking for constant praise. The millennial need for feedback isn't rooted in narcissism – it comes from how they were raised.
Millennials came of age in the era of the internet. For them, everything is instant. They don't like having to wait – especially not when it comes to finding out how they're doing at work.
So, millennials aren't narcissistic, they're uncertain. In a world where entry-level jobs often demand 1-3 years of experience, millennials want to know: Am I doing okay? What are my weaknesses? Is there anything I could be doing better?
How to Give Millennials the Feedback They Want
Only 19 percent of millennials say they receive routine feedback. If you want to retain millennial employees, you need to join this minority of employers. Start providing millennial workers with continuous feedback. Start an ongoing conversation between managers and their millennial reports.
Here are a few tips on delivering valuable ongoing feedback:
1. Be Specific and Frequent
Forty-two percent of millennials want feedback every week. It may not be possible for busy managers to deliver feedback so often, but you should make your best effort to chat with employees about performance this frequently.
Even in your brief weekly or monthly chats, make sure you have specific comments to make when you speak with your employees. Being too vague with millennials essentially guarantees they'll become disgruntled and eventually quit. Millennials want something to act on, something to work toward and eventually accomplish.
Comments like "You need to improve your client interactions" mean nothing to millennials. Instead, try comments like "When emailing with clients, try using a more positive and friendly tone, rather than being strictly professional."
2. Throw Out Annual Reviews If You Can
We know this one is difficult. It's not up to you, it's up to the CEO. However, keep in mind that 28 percent of millennials have responded to annual reviews by beginning the search for a new job and 35 percent have complained about their reviews to coworkers.
Aside from negatively affecting millennial workers, annual reviews give you an excuse to let continuous, informal performance conversations slip away. They make it to easy to say, "I don't have time this week; I can just bring it up during the review in December."
More important than simply throwing out the annual review is building a performance culture. In a recent study, 49 percent of HR professionals said they believe the performance appraisal process needs reevaluation. You don't necessarily have to cancel annual reviews, but you must keep feedback going at all times. Whether it's a chat with an employee as you stop by their desk or a formal raise request, performance should be a daily part of work life.
3. Keep an Open Dialogue
Millennials are expecting coaches, not just bosses. Continuous feedback through technology, weekly meetings, daily chats, and so on are the best way to keep an open dialogue going with employees.
When asked, 32 percent of millennials said they dislike when reviews don't allow them to share their thoughts on their own performance. You don't have to be their best friend, but you do have to make your employees – especially millennials – feel like they can speak their minds.
Millennials can be difficult to understand and manage. Their wants, needs, and goals are very different from those of prior generations. Endeavor to work with them, not against them, by providing continuous feedback. It's bound to help your organization in the long run.
A version of this article originally appeared on the iRevü blog.
Michael Heller is the CEO and founder of iRevü.