A lot of us as business leaders aren’t sure how to give feedback to millennial employees because they react differently than Xers or Boomers. They grew up constantly praised and rewarded. Sometimes they take criticism too harshly and might be out hunting for a new job if you hurt their feelings. If you’re struggling with how to give feedback to your millennial employees, then here are 7 strategies you can try.
1. Discipline in the moment
Don’t wait too long to give your feedback to an employee. This can result in their small mistakes growing into bigger problems. If one of your millennial employees gives a subpar practice-presentation, you might think it doesn’t matter because they aren’t presenting to a client, or you might excuse them because they’re having an off day. Discipline them in the moment. If they don’t improve their presentation skills because you don’t tell them they need to, how will they know how to perform when it’s the real deal? A small problem like saying “um” too many times could manifest into a big problem as a client might think your millennial team member sounds too unprofessional to move forward with you.
2. Regularly engage in mini-reviews
I have written on my whiteboard ‘Every day is a performance review’. It’s not a warning. It’s a promise to make sure every employee knows how they are doing on a daily basis. It’s important to regularly engage in mini-reviews or else your employee might get blindsided when you lay everything on them. Don’t give a quarterly gut punch. Give them nose flicks that keep them on their toes but don’t knock them over. You don’t want them to storm out of the office because you tore them down. Build them up by regularly engaging in mini-reviews. As they improve, the criticism will be smaller and smaller, and they’ll get better and better. Even brutal criticism will only sting for a minute. They’ll learn, and they’ll move on.
3. Give feedback from a place of compassion
The more compassionate your feedback is, the less harsh your critiques will be. You don’t want to hurt your millennial employees’ feelings. You want to tell them how to improve, not why they suck. A good way to give feedback from a place of compassion is to sandwich any criticism with compliments.
4. Sandwich any criticism with compliments
Paying a compliment before and after you give an employee criticism will put them at ease. Then when you point out how they can improve, they’ll know their job isn’t at risk. The conversation will end on a high note rather than leaving the employee shaking their head and worrying about their job security.
5. Keep criticism private and rewards public
Don’t humiliate your employees and make them scared to make a mistake. Mistakes are there to learn and grow from, not get punished for. You can rule with a carrot or a stick but the carrot wins every time. You want an atmosphere in your office where your millennial employees feel safe and protected. They’ll go to bat for us when they know that we have their back and a mistake doesn’t mean they’re no longer on our team.
6. Master the art of the graceful release
We’ve all made bad hires. We’ve all had that employee who disrupts employee engagement and productivity with gossip, attitude, and general communication. Sometimes it even escalates to harassment. Negativity is extremely damaging to the workplace. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that negativity costs businesses $3 billion a year due to its harmful effects.
You need to let go of a negative, bad hire quickly with what I call the “graceful release.” For the sake of your team’s morale, let go of any bad hires. You can make their release graceful by doing it compassionately and not leaving them in the dust.
7. If you release someone, don’t leave them in the dust
If possible, help the person you’ve released to relocate to a company or position that’s a better fit. They may not have worked out for you and your company, and you might be reluctant to recommend them to anyone else for that reason, but that doesn’t mean you can drop them like a hot potato.
Incorporate these strategies today
Give feedback that is effective and builds your millennial team members up rather than tear them down with harsh criticism. Be cognizant of the fact that you’re running a team and it’s up to you to make sure your team is nothing less than exceptional.
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