What is the loudest feedback you can give people?

With the presence of Millennials starting to become more significant in the workplace, managers are having to make a number of adjustments to what they’ve always considered “business as usual” when managing people. One of those views that needs an update is of how and when you give your people feedback. Millennials are rated as the highest maintenance workforce the world has ever known. That’s not a criticism. That’s just a fact. And with their high maintenance/high expectation qualities comes the need for constant feedback.

That doesn’t sit with well with typical Boomer managers who expect people to just get on with what they’re supposed to do and chat about it at the annual performance appraisal. Speaking of which … If you’re still in the annual performance appraisal mindset, you’re headed for trouble – if you’re not already in trouble.

Simply put, your Millennials will move to a company which gives them regular feedback that helps them understand how they’re performing and what they can do to grow, progress and succeed. That means you’re going to lose your talent faster than your competitors can hire it if you think that Millennials will be satisfied with hearing how they’re doing once a year.

In today’s fast moving world where a week is a long time, not just in politics but just about anywhere, you have to realise that the loudest feedback you can give your people is … no feedback. By not saying anything to the people who report to you, you’re sending them some very loud messages – such as that you’re actually not interested in what they’re doing.

In today‘s highly connected, self-indulgent world of selfie-crazy Millennials, that’s the kiss of death. One of the fastest ways of getting rid of the very people you want to keep is to ignore them. The opposite is also true. If you want to keep certain people, the most important thing you can do is tell them you want to keep them.

It might sound a bit simplistic, but people want to know that they’re appreciated, that their contribution means something to the company and that the work they’re doing has meaning.

When you don’t give people any feedback, they feel invisible – as if you don’t see them. They also feel that they’re not being heard. And one of the deepest needs any and every human has is the need to feel heard. Such people will then look for a company which does appreciate them and which does hear them. And with the global talent shortage, other employers will welcome your employees with open arms.

So make a point of listening to your people so they feel heard, then respond accordingly. Ask them for their opinion, then LISTEN to what they say. You might be wondering how listening fits in with giving feedback. After all, isn’t feedback about talking, not listening?

The point is, you won’t know what to say if you don’t know what your people want to hear. And by “want to hear” I don’t mean that you have to say things that will tickle their ears but will be meaningless. I am referring to things you should be saying that people will want to hear about their work and their jobs so that they know what to focus on in order to improve and succeed.   
One of the quickest ways of losing talent is to delay things until it is too late. It’s a complete waste of time begging a person to stay when they hand in their resignation. You should have told them long, long before that how important they were to your team – long before they started feeling unappreciated and started looking around.

Don’t, therefore, think in terms of annual or quarterly performance appraisals. Think rather in terms of regular, ongoing performance conversations where you regularly discuss with your team what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and when it will be finished.

Positive feedback is not necessarily feedback that simply tickles their egos. It’s feedback that also includes helping them to understand what you expect of them, what they can do to deliver a better performance and what you think of their performance so far.

As you keep the conversation going, you will build a more engaged team that uses your feedback to deliver excellent results in everything they do.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

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