Generation Y: The Dreaded Performance Review


Generation Y and the “Dreaded” Performance Review

We live in the information age. Information is freely exchanged and knowledge is easily accessed through our finger tips. It is changing our expectation—we want it—and we want it now!

The workforce is changing too. The old-fashioned processes companies have relied on for the last two generations simply aren’t cutting it anymore. Just as a company would adjust its business model to meet the demands of a changing market, so too must an organization rise to meet the demands of the newest generation in the workforce: Generation Y.

When it comes to the Annual Performance Review, Gen Y has spoken widely that “performance reviews fail,” and there is “limited to no value” in it for them. Are they being too harsh? It depends on your perspective and your generation. Performance Reviews have been in existence since the 1950s but were not given any credibility until the 1990s.

Old Workplace: Tools, structures, processes and procedures were designed to ensure the highest output. The framework was a corporate-centered—top down philosophy.

New Workplace: Being people-centered gets equal emphasis, resourcing and strategic importance as being corporate-centered. Work tools, structures, processes, procedures are designed backwards from the needs of employees that do the work.

Generation Y lives and thrives in the new workplace. Their needs are different from their parents who were comfortable in the old workplace. Since childhood they have become accustomed to real time feedback and recognition. They have carried these expectations over into the work.  Neil Crawford, a human resources consultant with Aon Hewitt says, “It’s not just about stroking. Even if they’re not performing well, they want to hear about it sooner rather than later.”

Too many managers suffer from the too-little-too late feedback problem and end up losing top Gen Y talent or keeping disengaged employees longer.

Why Annual Performance Reviews Fail the Y Generation

  • The time between reviews is too long.
  • Behaviors are tied to the supervisor’s goals and not to organization values or a company mission.
  • When the supervisor changes so do the goals.
  • By the time you’ve decided to review and reward the employee, the work has already been done.
  • The focus is usually on what has occurred during the last 30 days rather than providing a balanced assessment.
  • Most supervisors and employees look at performance plans once or twice a year, and by the next review, the large majority has forgotten what the goals were.

Smart companies and teams are not waiting for annual or semi-annual reviews. They understand Gen Y characteristics and know they do not relate performance success to ranking systems or how many trophies they have hanging on their wall. This is a generation that values connecting, engaging, collaborating. They want to be inspired and that is not possible with a once a year, often one-sided transaction.

Gen Y Wants:

  • Real-time ongoing feedback—weekly, monthly, bi-monthly etc.
  • Straightforward feedback—they can take the heat!
  • To know clearly what is expected of them and whether they are achieving it or not – and sooner, NOT later!

The Y Generation has a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience compared to their Boomer parents.

Dear Supervisor from Your Gen Y Employee,

My annual performance review is next week. I heard from another employee that you completed my written evaluation and that my increase in compensation has been submitted to payroll. It makes me a little uncomfortable since we have not had a chance to talk in months. Oh, well.  It is not a secret that I annoy you. I am a member of Generation Y and I am different than you.  I know you have a lot on your plate, and I don’t need you to hold my hand, but I would appreciate some regular feedback—it is invaluable to me. I am sure you have noticed that I am always “connected”—I love informal communication. I love technology and am not a fan of your printed memos or your post it notes written in cursive. I want you to know that some positive reinforcement goes a long way with me. Text me, email me, stop me in the hallway. Please don’t call me into a meeting. Unlike some others, you can shoot me straight. If my performance can improve, give me strong actionable feedback with measurable goals. Please don’t wait a year to tell me about it.

Finally, I hope you will consider modernizing the review process and focus it more on me. You emphasize the importance of reviews, but more often than not execute them very poorly.

By the year 2020, Gen Y is predicted to occupy almost half of the working population. How will you respond? Do you fully understand the Gen Y workforce? It’s a whole new ballgame!