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2 posts from July 2015

23 July 2015

Are you creating the right feedback culture?

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.

3.      Don’t overuse technology.

Another trap we as employers might fall into is over-using technology when communicating with this generation.

We know this generation is highly tech savvy, but our research tells us that female millennials want the important feedback discussions to take place face-to-face.  

In fact an overwhelming 91% of female millennials from across the globe want career plans and progress discussions to take place face-to-face. 


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.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here

09 July 2015

Stop thinking imposter syndrome, start thinking imposter advantage!

Seven years ago I took on my first management position with PwC leading a global change effort to expand our international assignment programme to one which very much included early mobility. This was such an exciting and meaty role that gave me the opportunity to bring a conceptual idea from Human Capital leadership to life. I got to own all elements of this early mobility programme all the way from strategy development through execution with two of the programme components being brand and communications. These were new areas to me, but I seemed to have a natural affinity for the creative and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to work and add value in this space. So much so, that it wasn’t long before I became the go-to person on this front for the wider Global Mobility team who supported our PwC Global Mobility efforts at large.

Eighteen months into the role we had a leadership change. Our new leader was renowned for being the PwC guru when it came to all things brand, marketing and innovative communication. Despite the fact I had added clear value in these areas over the previous 18 months I suddenly became horrified that my team was informing this new leader I was the marketing, brand and communications guru on our team……! Inner screams of discomfort and levels of anxiety began to occur as the dreaded imposter syndrome set in.

In my first face-to-face with our new leader I had one main thing on my agenda, to make it clear to this guru that I by no means thought of myself as a guru, that I had been mislabelled, that I must manage his expectations and explain in essence that I had just been giving it a go: this whole marketing, communications and branding component of my role.

Looking back now, in the role I’m in now, I can’t help but giggle at the fact putting front and centre what I felt was a personal weakness was my pivotal aim for my first meeting with my new leader. Yes, I would approach it differently now, but I’m glad I didn’t then, as it became one of the most powerful coaching discussions I was ever part of.

He listened, he recognised what I was saying and then he told me that it was a relief to hear me speak this way. That he would be more troubled if I felt I was the expert or guru. That personally he believes the day you start to feel like the expert is the day you are weak. There is most certainly almost always something new or evolving that we have opportunities to learn from and the day we start to feel comfortable is the day we stop learning, developing or being a leader in our field. 

Gender Agenda blog-imposter advantage

At the time this was super fascinating to me, really eye opening and powerful. A few years later I got to put words to what he was expressing when during an executive masters programme I was undertaking, we covered Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. In his book Senge discusses Personal Mastery as a key discipline. While mastery would typically suggest gaining dominance over a subject, Senge refers to mastery as more of a lifetime journey of commitment to personal learning as one continuously strives for mastery in their given area. In essence, personal mastery is something we must continuously strive for, but is not necessarily something we ever achieve, it is a constant quest.

The discussion I had with my former leader made me think about imposter syndrome in a whole new light. For me it lost its negative connotation and became a positive thing as I started to think about it as imposter advantage. Certainly we all need to work on internalising our achievements so we can recognise our successes and competency, but I feel it is ok to feel a little unconvinced of our successes too. Feeling a bit like the fraud for me means I don’t rest on my laurels, that I am continuously focused on trying to improve and be better, and that I am not comfortable enough in my position or abilities to miss a trick.

So my message to you if you are a female leader or talent suffering from imposter syndrome is to embrace it, and rebrand it in your mind to something more positive. Stop thinking imposter syndrome and worrying about feeling the fraud; start thinking of it as your imposter advantage, and how it keeps you on your toes and at your best.




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. Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog.