Are you struggling to reach and retain your GenY employees? Here’s the type of feedback they’re looking for — and why they need it.
According to a new survey from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Core standards and tests are becoming more accepted. More than two-thirds of teachers say that implementation is “going well” and most say that they feel “very” or “somewhat” ready to teach by the Common Core standards.
The important question for managers is:
How will testing culture affect new arrivals to the workplace?
Yes, Common Core is a relatively new concept, but increased testing isn’t. Academic testing has been increasing for decades, ever since George H. W. Bush started pushing for a “new accountability” for U.S. schools.
Since then, programs like PARCC, Race to the Top and the National Assessment of Educational Progress were founded and expanded. No Millennial has been able to escape public school without some form of state-based or federal testing.
We live in what The Washington Post calls a “hyper-testing” culture. GenY doesn’t know a world where their progress isn’t regularly and straightforwardly evaluated and reported.
As they enter the working world, they want to be reviewed differently than previous generations. Appealing to GenY values in the review process is critical if you want your GenY employees to stay.
It’s time for managers to revise their review practices
Here’s why and how to do it.
Young people are often overwhelmed when they enter the workforce. Their entire lives were built around textbooks, pleasing teachers and making the grade. From this structured environment, GenY is suddenly pushed into a world where the adage is, “Try your hardest and you’ll get ahead.”
For those with clear step stones and grades guiding their lives until graduation day, the lack of a clear path in the workplace has left them floundering.
Reviews structure the business world. Boomers might find formal reviews oppressive and corporate. But for GenY, the process is comforting and useful. Performance evaluations confirm that they’re on the right path and whether they can improve.
GenY has been groomed to value the review process
This includes recognition for hard work, recognition for achievement, fairness, transparency and safety. (Click here to tweet this bit of info.) Go to any high school or college graduation ceremony and look at how many kids earn recognition for being in a club or maintaining a “B” average.
Competition to get into the best name schools, internships and jobs are all continued demarcations of success. What do companies like Cvent, Goldman Sachs Group and Bain have in common? They require you to submit your SAT score with your application. For GenY, a job earned is no longer based solely on impressing in an interview — it’s a numbers game.
They’re taught to believe that the clear measures and tasks of tests like the ACT are an objective and reasonable way to evaluate performance. It’s safe and predictable. Growing up with standardized tests taught them to value this fairness, transparency and safety.
This “Show Me the Money” system of grading has led us to a place where students are no longer happy to receive qualitative feedback on their work. A student who receives a paper wet with red ink is likely to immediately demand, “But what was my score?”
Start with quantitative feedback
From fitting in with company culture to sales metrics, almost every part of every job can be quantified. Create a rubric so your employees know exactly what’s expected of them for each measured piece of the review. Sound like college? This is how GenY has been trained to achieve.
Appeal to their digital nativeness
They like when performance appraisal software is a part of the review process because, like standardized tests, everyone is subjected to the same criteria for success. Unlike many Boomers, GenY is comfortable with software. They don’t find it intrusive or sterile — they find the results fair and objective.
But quantitative measures aren’t all GenY wants in their reviews. Plenty has been written on how they value mentorship. This stretches back to their education as well. They had an unprecedented relationship with their teachers — particularly their professors.
Many grew comfortable with knocking on their teachers’ door not just for educational advice, but also for personal advice. GenY craves a relationship with their bosses.
The review should be a conversation — not just a formal summary of how the employee performed. The reviewer should use constructive criticism and also celebrate their achievements.
Positive feedback should be at the crux of any review, even if the review doesn’t go well. Work with your GenY employees to figure out what works — and what doesn’t.
Many Boomers and Generation Xers may find this formal review process to be frustrating. GenY needs a lot of hand holding. But remember: This is the environment that they were raised in — it’s the result of education policies that Boomers and Xers enacted themselves.
It’s time for companies to adapt to GenY needs in the workforce, and perhaps for Boomers and Xers to reconsider the effects of modern education on the younger generation.
Rachel Burger is a content marketing analyst at Capterra, where she specializes in writing on Millennials, performance appraisal and project management. She has been published in Forbes, Town Hall and The Christian Post, and featured on the BBC.