When millennials first entered the workforce in the early 2010s, the response from their older colleagues was less than enthusiastic.
A stigma evolved that painted '90s babies as slackers, who needed their hands held; who required constant attention and reassurance from managers and would rather have free beer on Thursdays than a competitive 401(k) plan. Fast forward a few years, and today their need for feedback is no longer criticized. As it turns out, millennials were on to something.
Millennials are collaborative by nature, ushering in a new dynamic for workplaces.
They see the value in addressing problems and concerns openly, in real time. As organizations begin to realize the success of living a culture that values feedback, they’ve discovered something unexpected - other generations are now embracing it with rigor.
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If the desire for open communication was always there, what is it about millennials’ presence in the workplace that has driven change?
The proliferation of smartphone usage isn’t a headline story anymore.
While 72 percent of Americans report using a smartphone, only Millennials were raised on technology; and therefore, they have been wholly shaped by their lifelong relationship with mobile.
They rapidly and continuously consume information. Older generations largely consumed information incrementally -getting the news by watching it on television or by reading a real newspaper. This difference is two-way versus one-way communication, and it's having a profound effect on workplace expectations.
Employees of all generations expect their workplace experiences to mirror their personal ones.
Because Millennials have been conditioned by apps, like Facebook, Yelp, Amazon and Uber, they expect and want continuous performance feedback to reach their potential.
Generation X and baby boomers never had that dialogue in their formative years, so they didn’t expect it from managers. This is best reflected in the traditional annual performance review - a practice being replaced with one founded on two-way, real-time coaching conversations.
Just because millennials are driving the shift doesn’t mean their wants and needs are drastically different than those who came before them. What is critical to remember is that all individuals, regardless of age, have the same basic needs.
Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
In order to reach one's full potential, someone must meet five, interdependent, basic human needs - physiological, safety, social, self-esteem and self-actualization.
A CEO, tenured manager and newly hired intern all have the same needs, as they have the same brain wiring.
All workers, regardless of their generation, will have the same positive reaction to an open communication approach. Feedback nurtures and supports the same physiological needs for millennials and boomers alike, which dismisses any notion that generational differences and preferences would come before basic human psychology.
In the '80s and '90s, work was an individual experience. Today’s environment is a collaborative and inclusive one.
Again we see the effects of a generation raised online. Whether it be forums or chatrooms, millennials are conditioned for interaction - not just from their managers, but from their peers as well.
Workplace individualism was simply the status quo that is being shattered by the newfound knowledge that there is a better alternative.
In order to climb the ladder in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, an employee requires more than individual self-actualization. They need acknowledgement from others. By bringing collaboration and feedback back into the very foundation of how the workplace operates today, both millennials and boomers are primed for success.
Look at each employee as a person, not as an age. Just because someone is used to hearing a checklist of feedback at a performance review, doesn’t mean he or she wouldn’t prefer more candid, casual conversations. Millennials are only different in that they aren’t afraid to say what everyone else is already thinking.