I think of feedback as perspectives you give employees about how well or how poorly they perform

I think of feedback as perspectives you give employees about how well or how poorly they perform. It can be a great retention tool, as well as a good way to shape employees’ attitudes and behaviors. By regularly letting employees know how they are performing, managers demonstrate they are actively interested in employees’ development.

The failure to get useful feedback is one of the major reasons people leave their jobs. They resent not knowing how the company perceives their job performance, and feel that since they hear nothing, no one cares.

Don’t make the mistake, however, of delivering all employees the same level and nature of feedback. Doubtless, some of your employees are happy with the annual or semi-annual reviews and feel that a check in with their manager once or twice a year is sufficient. On the other hand, many want more perspective on their job performance and look to managers to provide detailed insight and analysis. Still others require feedback on how well they perform their tasks on a much more frequent basis, along with information on how they stack up against their peers

How can a manager know how much feedback is appropriate for an employee, what kind to offer and how often to provide it? I’ve found that age can provide a good clue. While not etched in stone, most often a manager can gauge the feedback approach that will work best by an employee’s age. Let’s consider four age groups:

Traditionalists (born 1906 to 1945)
Traditionalists value teamwork, commitment, sacrifice and discipline. Coming through the Great Depression and World War II, they have “done without” and don’t need to be told they are valuable to the organization. On the other hand, they always appreciate a pat on the back and a kind word privately.

Deliver feedback to this group privately. They want to know they are appreciated and that their service matters, but in a low key way.

Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964)
Boomers value idealism, individualism and self-improvement. They bring high expectations to their jobs, both personally and professionally. Boomers generally want more feedback than Traditionalists, but they are comfortable receiving their performance reviews on a regular and formal basis, such as their annual review.

This group will respond well to feedback when given in a straightforward manner along with specific examples of what they do well and what needs improvement.

Generation X (born 1965 to 1979)
Known to be extremely self-sufficient, members of this group value their freedom in their workplace above all else. Because Gen Xers generally like to work very autonomously, it can often appear to their managers that they don’t need feedback. In fact, just the opposite is true. This is the first group of workers whom I’ve known to leave jobs solely on the basis of not getting enough information on their performance.

In general, Gen Xers want to know how well they perform after they’ve completed major projects and reached key milestones. Don’t wait to let these workers know how good they are and the strong contribution they make to your organization. By making a concerted effort to check in with them often, and comment specifically on their contributions to the organization, you will build loyalty with this elusive group.

Millennials (born 1980 to 2000)
The newest addition to the workplace values ritual, optimism, technological adeptness, volunteerism and teamwork. Millennials have taken the term ‘feedback’ to a whole new level. They insist on getting frequent input on their job performance, and want to know where they stand compared to their peers. I’m personally convinced that this desire for very frequent feedback stems from time they’ve spent playing competitive computer games. They’ve also gotten unprecedented attention in their youth by teachers, coaches and parents. That said, they just logically assume that they’ll get similar feedback on their job performance.

Savvy managers will leverage the Millennials’ desire for lots of feedback into an opportunity to mold and develop these young people into productive and committed employees. Deliver comments on performance often and use as many metrics as possible, and use the time to learn more about them. Certainly, this group requires a bit more time and nurturing than the others, but if they feel they are valued members of the team, they will want to do well and excel within the organization.

Summary: Giving employees a “report card” once each year is often no longer enough. Many workers today are looking for more frequent performance evaluations, and their effectiveness and longevity in their roles can hang in the balance.

Just remember: It’s often not what you say, but the way you say it…as well as how frequently!

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