Recognizing a New Generation: How Millennials Have Uprooted Workplace Recognition

An aging population has brought a lot of changes in virtually every area of society, and the workplace is no exception.  When it comes to feedback and recognition, Millennials have needs that are radically different from previous generations, seeking more frequent acknowledgment.

To Millennials, a desirable position isn’t about security the way it was to their forefathers.  If anything, young staff aren’t afraid to leave for greener pastures – despite greater risks – if a work environment doesn’t suit them.  They’re marketable, and they know it.

If you want to retain strong Millennial talent beyond the average two to four years that they typically opt to stay, then making them feel valued is a solid step in the right direction.  I order to do so, it’s important to understand what makes these workers “tick” in terms of effective feedback practices and recognition.

Constant Communication

A quick look at major social media tools like Twitter and Facebook shows just how connected Millennials are.  They constantly need to see what’s going on within their social circles and the world around them.  Hence, it comes as no surprise that they would carry this expectation into the office.  Knowing how they’re doing means a lot to them, but this needs to be communicated more often than many of us might be used to.

Because Millennials crave connection, the whole “faceless corporation” archetype has been established as a proverbial antagonist to everything human.  If they feel like just another cog in the machine, they won’t sense any kind of appreciation, let alone engagement.  New generations simply can’t accept staying in a job with no meaning or direction.

But this consistent desire for acknowledgment has a twist of irony.  Despite the fact that Millennials need more recognition than anyone before them, they rarely ever ask for it.  According to a Gallup poll, only about 15% of these workers actually approach their supervisors about this matter.  This means that it’s up to management to proactively provide valuable feedback – both positive and negative.  Simply put, keeping your Millennial employees in the loop will make them feel wanted, recognized and engaged.

Regular Coaching

Having a bad boss is the kiss of death for Millennials.  According to JeffFromm of Forbes, poor management is the main reason these people quit (although the same could be said for all ages).

Fromm continues on to say that nine out of ten Millennials “…would feel more confident if they had ongoing check-ins with their bosses.” Again, this connects back to the communication aspect mentioned earlier, but with one extra factor – Millenials value an equal playing field.  They want to see a workplace that’s more democratic, rather than the traditional top-down method of business authority; a place where leaders are seen as mentors, not bosses. That being said, it’s important for senior staff to consistently provide performance updates and helpful feedback to work with young employees who want to improve their skills with the potential for career growth.

Flexibility and Freedom

Power struggles are a serious issue for a lot companies.  Some supervisors or senior managers are either set in their ways or feel threatened.  Consequently, they rule with a iron fist, hiding behind polices, established (but potentially ineffective) procedures and micromanagement.  This stifles creativity and change – two things Millennials greatly value.

It’s always good to be recognized, praised or coached based on performance within the scope of even the strictest guidelines, but smart managers know better.  What young staff really need is autonomy.  Truly talented Millennials don’t just want to do a good job, they want to do a good job on their terms, using experimentation to create innovative new approaches and solutions.  Organizations who listen to these people often find ways to improve or cut out existing practices in favor of something more efficient and streamlined.  Best of all, success in this regard truly feels like a personal accomplishment, because of the level of control the worker has had throughout the process.

Bottom Line

Millennials are having a drastic effect in the workplace, arguably unlike any other group that came before.  They’re not content to land a lifetime job, clock in every day and then go home after.  They need meaning through acknowledgment.  While this may require an increased effort from management, it’s a small price to pay.  Eventually, these individuals will dominate every industry with their expected changes.  It’s up to us to change with them.