Dr. Kohut: Providing Feedback and the Multigenerational Workplace

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blog post by Dr. Gary Kohut

One of the most important – yet challenging – skills an effective leader can hone is the ability to give effective feedback. Whether in formal evaluations or casual check-ins, feedback is essential to your team’s development and improvement. It reflects effective listening, motivates employees, serves as a tool for continued learning, and helps build engagement.

Engagement is a buzzword in the 21st century workplace, but research shows that different generations are enthusiastic about different areas of their work. Your constructive criticism about a Boomer’s communication style might be motivating, while a Millennial might be left wondering, “why didn’t you mention this sooner?” 

The “right time” to talk to employees is shifting, too, as the tradition known as the “annual performance review” may even come to an end. Two of the largest companies in the world, GE and Adobe, have already abolished their annual review process in exchange for more frequent feedback.

Adobe, the first major company to step away from annual performance reviews, created a "Check-In" system, where expectations are set annually, but feedback is given regularly, resulting in a 2% decrease in voluntary attrition.

GE followed suit by creating "Touchpoints," to have quick career conversations that focus on results and changing business demands.  This has resulted in a five-time increase in productivity in the past year.[1]

Great leaders see the multi-generational workplace as a key attribute to success, leveraging the positivity and steady work ethic of many Boomers, who often respond well to fiscal rewards and can bring steadiness to a project, and using social rewards to electrify Millennials, who are highly collaborative and enjoy frequent opportunities for feedback. Did you know that Gen Xers are often entrepreneurial and stifling their risk-taking might prevent innovation?

Sometimes, no matter how matter-of-fact the feedback is, it can still hit a nerve. The appropriate response to emotionally charged situations can also vary by generation and a few key shifts in tone or timing can have very different effects.

Great feedback is just one component of effective leadership – the art of combining “doing” and “being” – that motivates a team to succeed.

Learn more about this topic during Essentials of Leadership, a one-day course brought to you by Executive Education and hosted by Siemens. Siemens’s Charlotte office is located at 5101 Westinghouse Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273.

Dr. Kohut is the Program Director for the MBA Program and Professor of Management at UNC Charlotte. His research focuses on corporate communication strategy, leadership and management development and applied technology in business communication.

[1] Baldassarre, Leonardo, & Finken, Brian.  (12 August 2015).  GE’s real-time performance development.  Harvard Business Review (online), https://hbr.org/2015/08/ges-real-time-performance-development.

Further reading: Burkus, David (2016, June 1).  “How Adobe scrapped its performance appraisal system and why it worked”, Forbes (online), http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidburkus/2016/06/01/how-adobe-scrapped-its-performance-review-system-and-why-it-worked/#297e1eac55e8.