• Jayne McQuillan

Feedback and Recognition isn't just for Millennials!

Updated: Jan 9, 2019



Lazy, narcissitic, entitled, spoiled....these are just some of the words that have been used to describe the Millennial Generation.  This generation was born between 1982 and 2004, and will begin taking over the Boomer's as America's largest generation. 


Having all 3 of my children falling into the Millennial Generation, I am learning and beginning to understand what drives them.  My oldest daughter is 23 and in the work force full-time, my middle daughter is 21 and entering her senior year of college, and my son, the youngest at 19, is entering his sophomore year of college.  With each of them there are similar, yet varying motivations and drivers, not unlike any other generation.  Now I'm not saying my children are a representative sample of the Millennial generation, but observing not only them, but their friends, there are definitely some positives that I think we can learn from.


1. They want to grow and learn

The Millennial Generation is on track to be the most educated generation of all time.  They have had information at their fingertips through the growth of technology, and specifically the internet.  They can find answers quickly and efficiently, and that easy access has allowed them the ability to gain knowledge in ways that previous generations could not imagine.  In fact, many of the careers they are looking to pursue require education beyond a bachelor's degree, or require more than 4 years to complete, just to practice their profession of interest. 

2. They want feedback

Part of what has been the norm for this generation is ongoing interaction and coaching through sports, extra-curricular activities, and the educational system.  Everything they have done in life has been measured, either through the scores that were kept in a game, to the standardized tests, to the grades they achieved in school.  Who knew that a 4.0 was no longer the highest GPA you could achieve?   The push for higher level classes such as AP and IB have continued to stretch the educational levels of this generation.  All, however, through feedback based on measurement.

3. They want recognition

Everything this generation has participated in has had a reward or recognition.  The participation trophies, the ribbons and plaques for taking 1 st, 2 nd, or 3 rd place, and the certificates awarded for being part of a club or group.  There has always been some sort of recognition for their efforts, even if their efforts weren't successful.


I would suspect that learning and growing and wanting feedback and recognition are not unlike what any of you would like as well.  So, why do we find these things to be negative characteristics of this generation in our current businesses?  Probably because the way we used to do things to develop, provide feedback, and give recognition, no longer work with this generation.  They aren't going to wait 5 years to start learning how to be a manager, they aren't ok with an annual review, and they don't want a years of service award as recognition.  However, what they do want is all the same things the rest of us want, they just want it differently. 


So what are some things you need to consider in your organization to attract and retain this large work force?


1. Keep them inspired.

Millennials are all about learning and growing to advance their personal and professional careers.  Get to know your employees to understand their passions and interests.  See where they want to go and help them develop those skills to move within your organization.  What training are you offering internally or externally to develop future leaders?

2. Be flexible.

Although money is important, it's not the only thing.  This generation doesn't want to punch a clock from 9 to 5, but rather wants flexibility to be measured by the output they achieve rather than the hours at the office.   Past generations have wanted this as well, but the Millennials are leading the way in job flexibility.

3. Reward.  

They want to be part of a greater cause. They are all about having a connection to a greater purpose.  What's the cause, how do they fit, is their work relevant, and does anybody care?  They want to learn and grow and are eager to chart their own course. 

This generation like others past, isn't perfect.  But like those before them, they have created their own path and have provided new clarity and direction.  Their lack of fear to try new things, as their lives have been nothing but changing technology.  Their need to have a social impact to better society is built on compassion and connection, and their need to be relevant in a world that has struggled through a recession and catastrophes.  This generation will make it's mistakes, but it also has a lot to offer.  Understanding the positives that this generation can bring to your organization, and capitalizing on it, will be your competitive advantage.


Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay



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