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Traditional Employee Reviews Aren’t Working for Millennials: Here’s What to Do Instead

3 min read
Employee Experience
Traditional Employee Reviews Aren’t Working for Millennials: Here’s What to Do Instead

Millennials, those aged between 18-35, have passed Generation X to become the largest portion of the American workforce. Today, they account for about a third of all employees.

This new demographic has driven companies to re-evaluate long standing ways of doing business.

One of the traditional business practices now on the chopping block is the annual performance review. 

TriNet and Wakefield Research published a report at the end of 2015 that uncovered how millennials feel about employee reviews. The results were clear: the traditional performance review process simply does not work for them. In fact, 69% of millennials surveyed think the process is flawed.

You don’t need a survey to tell you that the employee review process needs to change alongside this transformation of workplace demographics. Backing this up, GE figured this out and scrapped its formal performance reviews based on the revolution it was seeing in workplace culture.

Done well, employee performance reviews can cultivate leaders and boost engagement. Done poorly, these reviews can cause employee dissatisfaction and increase staff turnover.

Here are three things that aren’t working for millennials when it comes to employee performance reviews – and what you can do instead.

1.  Once-a-Year Feedback Won’t Cut it

The TriNet survey found that 62% of millennials have felt blindsided by a performance review, and 74% don’t know how their managers and peers think they’re performing.

The culprit here is infrequent feedback.

When employee reviews are conducted only once a year, it makes it hard for employees to know how they’re perceived from week to week.

It also makes it hard to implement any changes over the long-term, or – thanks to the time gap involved – for anyone to remember what they accomplished in the year since their last review.

All of these factors can create resentment between employees and leadership, even if the feedback is actually positive during the review itself.

Instead of conducting performance reviews once a year, consider doing them at least quarterly – so employees can see their progress in real-time.

2.  Scheduled Reviews Aren’t Enough

Scheduling employee reviews can help set the stage for the overall process. It gives both the employee and their manager time to prepare, and a deadline in terms of meeting goals and reporting.

However, these scheduled reviews often aren’t enough for the millennial workforce. This generation of employees is always connected, and expects more regular, dynamic feedback – and less paperwork.

Use their technological savvy to your advantage. Enable digital pathways for performance conversations to satisfy millennials’ need for real-time feedback. This will also save your managers the time and effort of having to schedule constant in-person reviews – and it frees those managers up to actually help their employees to perform better.

There are many digital platforms on the market today to make this communication feasible. Questback has powerful employee engagement tools that help you create a two-way dialogue with your employees, gather their feedback, and analyze the results.

3.  Employee Reviews Are an Opportunity for Connection

Millennials are constantly connected and always on, thanks to the technology they grew up with. Use the employee review process as an opportunity to become part of this connected workforce and turn reviews into conversations.

Though performance reviews are often focused on rating individuals’ performance, they can also be an opportunity to share thoughts and goals.

More than 30% of millennials surveyed for the TriNet report said they disliked that their supervisor didn’t give them a chance to reflect on their own performance. Take this as a nudge to make employee reviews a two-way conversation.

Take a Hint From GE

GE was famous for its brutal “rank and yank” performance review system – but in the face of a more connected, more enabled generation of workers, even GE has opened its eyes to a different way of conducting employee reviews.

Take note of how millennials feel about the traditional employee review. Consider an alternative to the formal, annual review process – and get the right technology in place to enhance the communication between your employees and their managers.


Guide for high employee engagement

Find the 4 driving forces of engagement split up into 33 solid methods that you can use to be a better leader and raise your team’s performance.

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