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April 10, 2017
Millennials at Work
MILLENNIALS ARE ME ME ME MANIACS. Millennials grew up in an atmosphere in which everyone got a trophy for every effort, and everything they did was received in a positive and supportive way. In particular, they took their parents’ focus to heart deciding it was all about “me me me,” therefore in a professional setting one might assume they think that everything they do is perfect and they only want praise.
HOWEVER, THEY ACTUALLY CRAVE CRITIQUE. In the workplace, millennials desire constant feedback and constructive criticism to feel they are on the right course. 42% of millennials want feedback EVERY WEEK at work. That’s more than TWICE the percentage of any other demo, according to the Harvard Business Review. In addition to regular feedback about how they are doing on specific jobs, they want advice on how to advance in their career, and they highly value mentorship relationships.
Their desire for professional constant connection may also be fueled by their “always on” tech orientation. Coming of age with social media and text messaging, it is not a complete surprise that they have become accustomed to immediate responses of all kinds – good and bad – and expect them in all aspects of life, including in the workplace.
UNDERSTANDING THIS ASPECT OF THE MILLENNIAL MINDSET IS ESSENTIAL TO THEIR JOB PERFORMANCE AND OVERALL HAPPINESS AT WORK. Constant feedback, including constructive criticism, can be leveraged across many situations in the workplace — while activating a team, when communicating throughout the project process and after completion, debriefing what went well, and the areas for improvement.
Managers and leaders of millennial talent may think that providing a top-level overview of a situation is enough. However, millennials’ desire for understanding “why” requires a constant flow of detailed, in-the-moment exchanges. In some cases, without the comfort of constant contact, they may actually feel uncomfortable at work.
They do not need to be hand-held and babied. They just need to be supported and acknowledged via regular check-ins.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO HELP SATIATE MILLENNIAL’S CRAVING FOR CONSTANT FEEDBACK. As a leader of a research and consulting firm that spends a lot of time with millennials in the office and in the field, I recommend considering the following:
  • Be an approachable, coach-like manager/leader. Support your employees along the way, both on projects and in helping to guide their career path.
  • In addition to your support, develop different internal mentorship programs to help foster employee personal and professional development, perhaps considering outside company mentor opportunities. There are many great millennial mentorship options that work well for the manager and the employee based on the specific situation.
  • “Check in” weekly (or even daily) to ask about general questions and concerns and get ahead of any issues or barriers to efficient progress.
  • Dial up the frequency of reviews, and keep them informal. Include how they can improve as an individual and how their work is contributing to the company as a whole. Millennials expect to hear specifically about project work they’ve just completed. Whether good or bad, the feedback will resonate more clearly and drive more action, in the moment.
  • Set them up for success by laying out specific expectations in advance, with clear objectives and deadlines. This will also help to inform the follow-up project evaluations. 
  • Consider using a “micro-feedback” method of gathering short and concise feedback from peers and managers both in the moment and at the end of a project or milestone. 
The bottom line is, Millennials want a “progress life-line” at work, but many aren’t getting it. If they get more regular feedback, they feel more confident and committed to the company by better understanding how their performance directly connects to the success of the company. Start communicating regularly now for a better and more effective workplace.

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As Managing Director of Open Mind Strategy, Lianna Willoughby handles all business operations, including overseeing qualitative and quantitative research projects and products, from design, execution to analysis. She works closely with clients to ensure the research is tailored to their unique needs and objectives, including recent projects with Facebook, MTV, ESPN, USA Today and iHeart Media. Lianna has a passion for understanding people and loves leveraging generational insights to help create better culture and processes in the workplace.       
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