Last month I had the pleasure of presenting the findings from our The female millennial: A new era of talent research at PwC’s annual HR Leaders Symposium, which took place in the beautiful city of Venice. A particular theme from this research seemed to resonate during my session – the importance of creating the right feedback culture. This theme was not isolated to my session, it appeared to be implicitly woven throughout many of the sessions and more explicitly in others; I made a mental note to focus a future Gender Agenda blog on this topic, so here we go.
When writing our recent publication The female millennial: A new era of talent, there was a personal story I could not get out of mind as I crafted the feedback culture section of the report, and I want to share this story with you.
I have a friend who last year started a new job. Back when she was about to embark on this employer change I asked her why she left her former employer, a well known name in the Financial Services sector and she explained that she had recently had her year-end appraisal discussion.During this appraisal she got the feedback that while 90% of her work was fantastic, for the previous six months they had been unhappy with how she had been handling a small segment of her role. This prompted her decision to leave for a number of reasons:
- Firstly, she didn’t feel a culture that had let her operate in that way for six months was the type of development culture in which she could thrive.
- Secondly, what she had expected to be a future orientated discussion priming her towards her next promotion was instead a past orientated discussion that largely centred on just ten percent of her role.
- And finally, while she knew changing her behaviour was an easy fix, as a high potential and highly ambitious young talent, she felt that staying might be a career risk. Her thoughts were that there had been a small issue with her performance in the minds of her superiors for six months and she was worried this might not be something she could shake and could ultimately limit her career trajectory if she stayed.
Our research tells us my friend is not alone and that it is safe to say that most female millennials value and want frequent feedback that is real time and future orientated. Organisations and people managers need to take stock, especially given our research indicates that only 12% of over 9,000 female millennials from across the globe are very satisfied with the feedback they receive in their current roles.
Let the story of my friend be a lesson to us all,a simple conversation six months earlier could have meant a very different outcome for her former employer. I can tell you her new employer is more than happy with how things panned out, nine months into her career with them and things could not be going better for her.
This emphasis on a strong feedback culture and millennial demand for frequent and real time feedback was also highlighted during a session called Rethinking Performance Management at the previously mentioned symposium. As a Generation Xer, the lead presenter spoke personally as someone who hated receiving feedback and would much rather wait the year out and keep the fingers crossed it was good news when performance ratings, salary increases and bonuses where awarded each year. It struck me from this discussion how important it is we create awareness around why millennials want and expect more when it comes to feedback and how to get this right.
The millennial generation, that’s those born between 1980-1995 and who are primed to account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025, have grown up in a highly digital world. They are conditioned to receiving immediate feedback such as numerous comments and instant likes on everything they share in their personal life. This transcends to their work-life where they also expect instant, regular feedback on their job performance.
So we know what they want, but it is important we heed some warnings as we try to get this right.
1. It is important we don’t think quantity over quality.
Likes might suffice in their personal lives, and while they’ll absolutely appreciate the more simple acknowledgements such as ‘good job’ and ‘thank you for your contribution’ it won’t be enough to satisfy their feedback needs. Blending this with the appropriate levels of developmental future orientated feedback will also be critical.
2. Focus on strength enhancement.
It is important we all take note that the aforementioned developmental feedback does not mean feedback limited to addressing weakness. Strength based feedback that will allow them to unlock the full potential of their strengths is likely to be much more powerful and well received by this generation.
4. Real time feedback enhances objectivity.
Evaluating people accurately is among the hardest things we can do, striving to get this right means we should not rely solely on our memory. Giving feedback in real-time will enhance its objectivity (learn more from Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji on memory bias here).
5. Adopt the triple f model.
Successful employers will be those that can blend advanced technology and communication patterns with a feedback culture that enforces what I have taken to calling the triple f model. Feedback that is frequent, future orientated, and delivered face-to-face.
So I challenge you - how are you going to embrace and enable the right type of feedback culture for your millennial talent or organisation?
Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.
She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.