Millennials are projected to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation in 2019, the Pew Research Center announced earlier this month. They are already the most prevalent generation in the workplace and are on track to comprise 50 percent of the workforce globally by 2020. So, today’s workplaces must be perfectly aligned to support this generation of employees, right?

Actually, no. Many employers have made some progress in embracing technology, offering flexible work schedules and giving back to the community to make their company attractive to Millennial talent. However, most are woefully behind in adapting their performance management processes and tools to retain and develop Millennial workers.

It’s important. If you’re doing performance management wrong, you will probably lose some great employees to competitors who have figured out how to provide the feedback and opportunities that Millennials crave. Here are four ways companies are failing Millennial workers with their performance management programs. Don’t make these mistakes at your company.

1) Provide Reviews Only Once a Year

Most performance management programs pivot around an annual performance review. It’s the one time a year that managers meet with employees to formally review progress against goals, provide feedback on the past year’s job performance and outline areas for improvement over the coming year.

While this approach may have worked with older generations, Millennials seek constant feedback. Having grown up in the digital “public eye” of social media and instant feedback, they want to always know how they’re doing and what to do next. They don’t need a formal review every week or every month. Don’t restrict feedback to an annual performance review. A simple email, instant message or call is enough to share regular feedback.

2) Emphasize Manager Ratings

Performance review templates were built with the busy manager in mind. It takes a long time to document year-long observations and assessments for six, eight, twelve … or more … employees. It also takes time to solicit and collect feedback from others in the organization who have worked with those employees. Still, organizations need performance data to help them identify top (and bottom) performers. So, most performance reviews include some form of numerical system for managers to rate employees. There’s usually space to include some comments, but it’s the numbers that get consistently recorded. Ratings often also become the focus of review conversations, as managers use them to consistently communicate their assessment of each employee’s performance.

Performance review

This approach fails Millennials on two fronts. First, Millennials enjoy collaborating and working on teams. They see manager feedback as one valid input and expect to hear from peers, as well, about how they’re doing. Second, Millennials want and need specific feedback. Numerical ratings don’t deliver precise information about what they are doing right, what’s wrong, and how they can improve.  Don’t restrict feedback to simplistic manager ratings. Millennials prefer a culture that supports ongoing, specific feedback from managers and peers.

3) Skip the Goals

… Or even worse, create long-term meaningless goals. While SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals have been around for a long time, they are not required for performance reviews. The annual chore of completing performance assessments is often so driven by deadlines and other administrative criteria that leaders are simply relieved when reviews are submitted. HR leaders often accept goals of any quality that make it into the process. Consequently, there are many reviews with such amorphous goals as, “Continue to learn more about the company” and “Continue to grow and contribute in your job.”

Such goals won’t do for Millennials. For this generation, goals are practical tools that help define their path and progress. Don’t be vague about how to improve. They sincerely want ambitious-but-realistic, short-term goals that motivate them to excel. And, they want feedback to make sure they’re on track.

4) Focus on Process, Not Outcome

Many performance management programs are focused on process. HR leaders, managers and employees rally around dates to complete forms and tasks. Success is measured by percentage of performance reviews completed on time and percentage of goals reached in the past year.

For Millennials, the process is of little interest. It’s all about the outcome. They want to grow. They want opportunities. They want managers who coach them, not managers who simply complete forms on time. They value learning and opportunities to improve their skills, their competencies, their chance to advance. If the performance management program doesn’t include a clear development path with the key metrics and resources for them to succeed, then the program has failed them.

That’s it! If you want to keep failing Millennials, don’t make any changes to your traditional performance management efforts.

But if you’re ready to do something different, take inspiration from Accenture, Deloitte, the Gap, Facebook, PwC, Adobe and a number of other companies who overhauled their performance management programs. They’ve all come up with different approaches, but most were driven by the Millennial influence.

Organizations that take a continuous approach to managing the performance of their workforce can easily align employee goals with business goals, which creates a more productive workforce. For some perspective on this topic, download our white paper, “Optimize Your Workforce.” Or contact us for a demo of our online performance management software, built to help HR transform performance management into a process that provides employees direction, development, and feedback they desire.

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