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Do you want to engage millennial employees? Just talk feedback to us

Have you have heard your daughter say she’s been ‘tagged’ in an Instagram picture? What about your son telling you his hair’s ‘on fleek’ today? And you had no idea what they were talking about… I mean, can’t they just say they took a picture with some friends or that their hair looks good that day?

Welcome to the millennial world.

If these are little communication issues you face on a daily basis with your own children, the ones you raised yourself, it might be even harder with those you work with, the ones you never had to feed – hopefully. You might wonder how you can better motivate your young employees or co-workers. Undeniably, there are some differences between you and them, you belong to different generations, after all. Their taste in shoes may be obnoxious according to you, but do you really need to treat them differently at your job?

What motivates employees? Of course, generally speaking, reasonable salaries and financial rewards are important incentives to motivate workers towards higher performances. Nevertheless, several studies, Whitley (2002)for instance, have shown that money is not the most important driver of productivity and good performances on the long term. A crucial non-financial factor which leads to job satisfaction and increases individuals’ motivation is feedback (Dobre, 2013). Sometimes, like in this case, the old adage “Money doesn’t buy you happiness” comes in very handy. And guess what, millennials are not that different, as they are motivated to do their best by the same incentives that motivate you.

There are some differences in the way millennials’ carriers develop, though. Job hopping, which is “the practice of changing your job very often”, seems to be one of the millennials’ most practiced activities. Along with Facebook scrolling and taking selfies, obviously. In fact, a Clutch HR survey revealed that 32% of millennial employees (18 to 34 years old) are likely to leave their job within the next six months, compared to only 11-12% of older workers (35 to 65+ years old).

No, it is not just because employees who work at the same company for over two years are likely to get paid 50% less over their lifetime. One of the main reasons why a twenty-something-year-old has changed more jobs than you ever had – and probably ever will – in your life is that they feel unfulfilled at work and look for a personal and professional growth opportunity.

So, how can you keep them engaged?

Buying them candy is not the right answer, sorry. Feedback is the key. According to the same Clutch survey, 72% of the millennials whose managers provide accurate and consistent feedback, find their jobs fulfilling. Here is further evidence of this. The 2016 Gallup Millennials Survey shows that millennials are the least engaged generation at work, with an engagement of only 29%, compared to 32-45% of older generations. Likewise, it shows that constructive and regular feedback, i.e. monthly feedback, nearly doubles employees’ engagement and increases bottom line revenue.

The first step you want to take to give a constructive feedback to a millennial is to set clear expectations for the job. Just think about it, how can you expect someone to perform well if they don’t have clear in mind what they are going to be evaluated on? This is particularly important for those employees who just entered the job market and might need a little extra guidance – you probably got it yourself when you started working.

Millennials are often surprised to receive so little and vague feedback at work because they are used to getting constant feedback by teachers, coaches and their peers throughout school and sports, and even on social media, where they get real-time reactions. They know how crucial feedback is to improve themselves.

So, the second step is to be open and careful listen to their point of view before giving them a feedback. Just like a coach, you need to observe the athlete’s performance before telling them what they need to work on.

Surprisingly, younger employees do not need to be reassured about their competencies. According to a survey from Forbes, millennials would rather receive helpful, corrective feedback over praise or recognition for their job. Accordingly, millennials (or Gen Y) value the most managers who provide them with clear and specific critiques on what they could improve.

So, just be honest with them and tell them what they could improve, they won’t cry, I promise.

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