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Feedback across the Generations, from Millennials to Baby Boomers

Employers constantly have to give feedback to multi-generational employees, from Millennials to Baby Boomers. By doing it well, they can build a stronger culture, drive greater productivity and create and maintain better relationships.

Today’s post is by Margie Mauldin, author of Feedback Revolution (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

The term, “generation gap,” became popular in the 1960s. And today, more than ever, it’s showing up in the workplace, where differences among the generations – and the communications challenges those differences present – are increasing with a record number of generations working together.  People are living longer and, therefore, working longer. As a result, it’s possible to find four and five generations in one work environment today.

The opportunities and benefits of this situation are huge, yet sometimes ignored. And the confusion between a “generation gap” and a “communications gap” are often misunderstood. By understanding generational differences, employers can provide more relevant feedback to their employees thereby building greater productivity, better relationships and more collaborative cultures.

In this multi-generational workforce, a manager must know how to reach each age group with effective feedback. If you approach the modern, multi-generational workforce with these thoughts in mind, you will be able to tailor your feedback to both the employee’s particular needs and that that same employee’s generational expectations. From the Millennial to the Baby Boomer generations, following is insight on how they best receive feedback, as well as tips for their employers to effectively deliver that feedback:

Millennials

Be specific with all feedback, and get to the point quickly. Use Millennials’ impatience to your advantage, setting up goals and deliverables that can be achieved quickly. Conversely, use your feedback sessions to show them that in some cases, slow and steady can also be effective. Use Millennial’s technology comfort levels to your advantage – and to the advantage of your feedback. Email, text messages, video chats and PowerPoint presentations can be effective with this generation. Make lists and summaries of feedback, have the millennial employee do the same, and then compare lists. Add humor and, if appropriate, irony, to your feedback session. They appreciate humor!

Generation X

Generation X employees love challenges, so make sure their work (and your feedback) includes stimulating projects and thought-provoking responsibilities. Find areas where flexibility and nonstandard approaches to tasks can be implemented. Consider that Generation X employees are likely to resist responsibilities that limit their family time, so negotiate the balance that best suits your employee’s family concerns with your business goals. Provide a printed copy of their evaluation, something tangible that they can take home. Offer further training if you feel – or more importantly, if they feel – that their potential is not fully tapped. Reward positive performance quickly – don’t wait.

Generation Jones

Generation Jones’ employees have reached the stage of their careers where they are willing (and determined!) to be discerning. Be prepared for pushback or negotiation when offering new responsibilities. They are used to having plenty of choices, so structure your feedback sessions, when possible, and offer different options. Tailor your feedback to include appealing incentives. Discuss the type of options that might appeal to them, such as a flexible schedule – which could be worth more to them than a raise. Bring big questions to the feedback session, such as long-term goals, security and late-stage career growth.

Baby Boomers

Boomers are an extremely diverse group. They are willing and eager to experiment with innovation and creativity. Big goals are super important to Boomers, who are eager to make sure that they have “made their mark” – so your feedback sessions should be aimed at determining the employee’s goals. Be aware that retirement and financial security is top of mind for Boomers, so feedback sessions should include acknowledgement of planning, strategizing and reaching goals. Listen to the employee, as Boomers have both opinions and the experience to back up their options. Learn from the Baby Boomer employee, as their feedback can be invaluable for your business, as well.

The best way to bridge generation gaps is to bring them together, depending on the generational composition of your team. Embrace different styles of thinking, as well as different ages. Older-generational employees can show the younger ones “the ropes.” Younger members who are more comfortable with technology can show the older-generational employees how to use some of the new tools. With effective feedback, multi-generations can bring multi-faceted communications and ageless opportunities to the workplace.

Feedback RevolutionMarjorie (Margie) M. Mauldin is the author of Feedback Revolution (CLICK HERE to get your copy). She’s also Executive Forum’s founder and president and she works with Fortune-100 companies, government agencies and municipalities on leadership and feedback training helping them improve their results, outcomes and business relationships. For more information, visit ExecutiveForum.net, ilovefeedback.com or twitter.com/ExecForumCO. For questions, please contact Margie directly at Margie.mauldin@executiveforum.net.

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Photo: Millennials Jam Workshop by ITU Pictures

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