It has been said that the latest generations require more feedback than previous generations. I am not a GenY or GenZ employee but I have worked with many. I also get quite a bit of feedback from all generations during the classes I teach. I ask questions and hear comments from all of the generations in the workforce.
I identify myself “on the cusp” of X and Boomer because I was born in 1963. Technically, my year is at the end of the Baby Boomer Generation but I find myself possessing more of the X characteristics according to the Generation research and articles. I do know that I do not ask for as much feedback in the workplace as these more recent generations. After thinking quite a bit about this topic, I have decided that this need for constant feedback can be a great bonus in the workplace but it has some limitations.
Many X and Boomer managers complain about the need to give constant feedback to the most recent generations. Susan, a participant in my class, stated that she does not want to “babysit” and constantly give real-time feedback that Gen Y loves. Other managers in the class jumped into the conversation with comments such as: “I just don’t have time to give feedback all of the time” – “I had to learn by trial and error” – “I would never ask my VP for more directions, I would just do it”. These comments made me visualize what these two different approaches look like. Here is the model I created.
Let’s say that each project begins at the “start” and then it finishes at the “end”. The way to do this project properly is to follow the light blue lines. For example, if I was planning an event such as the annual holiday party there would be many small tasks to do and it would take a while. The “road to success” is filled with curves and there is not a straight route. OK – granted, this is not a project management visual or chart, but go with me on this one. The green curvy line is how older generations learned a task without asking for a lot of feedback. We may or may not get a lot of directions in the beginning but were expected to figure it out. Sometimes our bosses loved our creativity and other times they would give us feedback and we may have had to start over. This green line is full of trial and error, finally coming back to the “road to success”. All of the swaying off course meant that the process took a lot of time.
Now when the more recent generations begin a task they start then quickly ask for feedback. The X symbolizes the employee asking for feedback and correcting the course to stay on the path. The outlines of the “road” depict the path that a person takes to get from the beginning to the end while ping-ponging back and forth from X to X. Asking for feedback often keeps the person closer to the “road to success” and there is less swaying off course. This curve is not as large as the green curve showing that not as much time is taken. So, asking for feedback often could actually save time instead of wasting time.
My theory is that the newer generations realize that they need to get tasks and projects done more quickly than what was expected in the past. They don’t have the time to make as many mistakes and most are used to their parents helping them navigate the waters of life as compared to the older generations. Also, technology now gives us constant feedback, directions, and how-to YouTube videos. These employees want to make a difference and want to do the job correctly the first time. They realize that time is important, and they can get instant feedback from not only their supervisor but Google, social media, or other online technologies.
The older generations had more time to get projects completed so they had the luxury to use trial and error. These generations had to research through books and other means of information, and it was realized that this took time. We also did not have computers or the Internet. The bonus to this method is that as the older gens made mistakes, they got creative. They had time to try out new ways of doing things and that led to other ideas and inventions.
So, using this quick model to compare how employees used to complete a task without feedback and how Gen Y and Z are doing it now can give us some insight. Here are some of the ideas on how to give feedback to your younger employees.
- Understand that the annual review-only feedback/performance model does not work for the new generations.
- Give detailed expectations at the beginning and be open to many questions.
- Coach instead of delegate.
- Suggest that they use social media to connect with others who have done the task before.
- Instead of having the open-door policy and being disturbed every hour by questions, have the YZ create a list of questions when they come to a fork-in-the-road. Answer all of the questions at one designated time. This will be frustrating for the YZ at first but they will get used to trying to find the answer themselves thus taking some of the items off of the list.
- Let your younger gens know that they can and should use other forms of technology.
- Explain your timeframe. When do you need the task completed? Make sure that you communicate this to your employee.
- Know the reason why you are giving this task. Is it a learning task that involves creative or critical thinking or is it a simple quick report? If the task involves critical thinking or creativity explain that you expect them to take their time and that it will be OK to make some mistakes. – really mean this! No consequences. Make it a learning opportunity.
What are some of your methods of giving feedback to younger employees?
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