The question of performance reviews for Gen Y – those entering the workforce now and for the past ten years – is of particular interest to me, as the youngest of my children prepares to enter the workforce.
About a year ago I responded to an article where Samuel Culbert, a UCLA business professor, said that performance reviews were “dishonest and fraudulent,” a claim that I declared was a bit of a stretch. But I’m not the only one who has a beef with Culbert’s position. Kyle Lagunas, an HR market analyst at Software Advice, recently wrote a blog post of his own, responding to Culbert and another article written by Ira Wolfe called Trophy Kids: What Goes Around Come Around.
Lagunas is a Gen Y employee, and proud of it. He takes exception to Wolfe’s view that “whether we hit foul balls or home runs over the course of a year, we expect to be applauded and rewarded,” arguing that his generation “doesn’t need their hands held or their egos stroked daily.” Here’s a summary of what he has to say about performance reviews, along with my response:
Lagunas: We don’t get it. If performance reviews are so important, why are they so poorly executed? Dust off your thinking caps, modernize your reviews, and capitalize on your most valuable asset (your people).
Martin: Ouch. I agree that people are our most valuable asset, but you need to recognize that (if you have a good manager) delivering bad news at a performance review is as hard on him as it is on you. It’s not just Gen Y employees who don’t want to hear bad news at a performance review; it’s tough to deliver that message to anyone.
Lagunas: Lose the sugar coating. We suffered through the recession, too. Though strong, our idealism has definitely been tempered. If our performance can improve, tell us. Give us strong, actionable feedback with measurable goals. We can take it.
Martin: Performance reviews are not black and white – they are fraught with grey. I agree that all employees need strong, actionable feedback, and I’m a big fan of measurable goals, but don’t expect me to be able to tell you exactly what to do to succeed. Success will change from day to day, and I need you to be flexible enough to roll with that.
Lagunas: Connect with us. Don't make regular feedback so complicated. There are simple solutions that can make this easy for you. Offices with instant messaging clients know this. They’re a great tool for maintaining informal lines of communication (which we love).
Martin: I’m all for regular feedback and communication. Clarity is key. That said, too much is lost when feedback is provided via instant messaging. A simple “nice job presenting today,” via IM is fine, but if you blew it today, IM is not the tool I would use to tell you that.
Lagunas: Positive reinforcement isn’t a bad thing. Whoever demonized trophies should think again. Rewarding good performance can be as simple as an “Atta boy!” or “You go girl!” sent via email – and they go a long way in giving Gen Yers a sense of accomplishment.
Martin: I miss the days when organizations regularly held recognition meetings and promotions and awards were announced and celebrated in public. I don’t think managers are neglecting Gen Y – in fact, I suspect they give more feedback to those newer workers than their more experienced workers – but with more on their plates, smaller budgets, and larger spans of control, there is just so much they can do.
My thanks to Kyle Lagunas for entering into this dialogue. You can read his entire blog post here.
What’s your take on performance reviews?