8 min read
Jan 3, 2018

What millennials really want from performance reviews

Organizations need to understand if their current performance reviews align with the needs of this particular generation.

Bhaswati BhattacharyyaContent Analyst

Millennials, millennials, millennials – these days it can seem as if they’re all we ever hear about. Millennials can’t find jobs, millennials aren’t getting paid enough, and even the news that more millennials recognize Pikachu than Joe Biden.

The reason for this obsession is justified by their number in the workforce. As Kandi J Brown noted, millennials will make up 40 percent of the workforce by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025.

With such statistics, organizations need to understand whether their current performance management practices–especially when it comes to conducting employee reviews–align with the needs and wants of this particular generation.

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The tech factor

A lot has changed in the last couple of decades in terms of technology and access to any kind of information and preferences of the working population. A myriad of social, technological, and cultural factors have changed the way the current workforce views their job and the kind of expectations they have from organizations, big and small. These factors need to be recognized, so that meaningful steps can be taken accordingly.

Susan Peters, head of Human Resources at GE, told Quartz: “The world isn’t really on an annual cycle anymore for anything. I think some of it to be really honest is millennial based. It’s the way millennials are used to working and getting feedback, which is more frequent, faster, mobile-enabled, so there were multiple drivers that said it’s time to make this big change.”

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Tailored employee reviews

Trinet and Wakefield conducted research in September 2015 to understand how full time workers between the ages of 18 and 24 viewed performance reviews.

According to the study, 69 percent reported that the current processes are flawed, while 62 percent reported having felt “blindsided” by a performance review. Meanwhile, 74 percent said they feel “in the dark” about how their managers and peers think they are performing at work.

If your organization is struggling to keep job-hopping millennials engaged, you might want to rethink the way you conduct performance reviews. Industry titans across the world such as Adobe, GE, Accenture, and IBM have binned their annual reviews because they they believed they weren’t working for them anymore.

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Manager engagement

Interaction and contribution of managers is essential in making performance reviews a success and something that employees look forward to. However, 54 percent of millennials reported that they frequently felt their manager was unprepared to give feedback during performance reviews.

Feedback is key for millennials. And it is not just about giving feedback once a year, millennials also need regular review meetings, and they want to be told how they are doing right now, not wait a year to find out.

It is not just the millennial workforce, but also the managers who are unhappy with the way performance reviews are conducted. As per a survey by CEB, around 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with the way the company forces them to conduct employee reviews. In the same survey, 90 percent of respondents said that their performances reviews don’t provide accurate information.

They feel that a ranking system is unfair and not an accurate way to define or analyze how well a person has grown in a company, or helps to identify their shortcomings and ways to overcome them.

“All this terminology of rankings – forcing rankings along some distribution curve or whatever – we’re done with that,” Pierre Nanterme, CEO at Accenture, told the Washington Post. “We’re going to evaluate you in your role, not vis à vis someone else who might work in Washington, who might work in Bangalore. It’s irrelevant. It should be about you.”

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Coaching and mentoring

Performance management is a very critical area for most companies to crack as it defines the relationship between a manager and an employee. Millennials want coaches and mentors who contribute to their professional growth.

There is a problem as the current frequency of feedback from managers is low. According to research from Gallup, only 21 percent of millennials meet their managers on a weekly basis. Organizations need to invest in their managers, allowing them to coach their subordinates and make regular and ongoing feedback an essential part of their performance reviews.

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Remote and mobile feedback

The millennial workforce is mobile and relies heavily on technology: millennials spend approximately 223 minutes per day on their mobile devices. This generation has grown in a self-directed environment and they expect to have access to such technology while they are at work. They want to be given flexible working opportunities and remote working is on top of their list.

Hence, feedback need not be face to face, but can be through digital devices for this tech savvy generation. Organizations should harness this benefit and see how they can incorporate real- time feedback into everyday life through technology, such that distance does not become a concern. Even by digital means, regular feedback can create more dynamic and transparent pathways for leadership development.

Hence, it is critical that HR managers have a clear understanding of this new workforce and how to most effectively engage with them. The current flaws in the system need to be recognized and sorted out, both for employees and their managers. Performance reviews should not be a dreaded process once a year, but something that employees look forward to.

Any performance management solution should be designed in a way that addresses new work habits, including the use of technology, as well as the expectations of the way teams interact, compensation and the nature of the job itself. The most crucial engagement drivers for millennials are managing their performance and career opportunities, both of which can be met by constant and regular feedback by managers. They needed to be presented with checklists, offered plenty of help, be rewarded for bringing their unique ideas to work and innovating, and given mentors they look up to.

By making the above part of performance reviews, organizations can truly impress and retain this generation we are obsessed with.

Want to know more about performance management? Download the whitepaper on The Ultimate Guide to Performance Management or check out the top apps in performance management.

About the author

Bhaswati Bhattacharyya is a Product Specialist atCapabiliti, a mobile-first training and engagement solution for enterprises. Passionate about Economics, Bhaswati also loves storytelling. She has a keen interest in start-ups, food and travel. In her ‘me time’ she picks up fiction novels, tries different cuisines or explores routes to less traveled places on the world map. Follow her on Twitter at@Bhaswatibh.

This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated to provide more recent analysis and research.

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