Giving Feedback To Gen Y Employees
"Giving Gen Y Employees Corrective Feedback: What Can Video Games Teach You?"

One of the biggest complaints I hear from managers about their Gen Y employees is how defensive they get when given corrective feedback.

You can dramatically increase how receptive your Gen Y employees are to feedback if you borrow from the world of video games.

In video games, feedback is an essential part of the game. It’s how you know you’re doing well and if you’re reaching your goal. If your player gets shot or blown up or you miss the target, you don’t whine and complain that it isn’t fair or feel like you’re a loser. You know that’s part of the game.

Rather than whine, you use the results you get to inform your future responses and strategies and develop your skills. Without feedback, without a response to your actions, there is no game. There’s no excitement, there’s no redoubled effort, there’s no “Oh, yeah, watch this” escalation of determination.

Smart managers use this same concept in giving feedback.

In the Land of Effective Feedback

The best example I’ve come across of how to make feedback “a good thing” comes from Heather Burroughs of the UNH library.

I met Heather at a seminar I did on how to bring out the best in Generation Y employees, and was struck by the great ideas she shared with the group. So, I asked her if I could interview her. I also interviewed some of her student workers (more on that in a future post).

Out of these interviews, I was profoundly impressed with how the managers and supervisors at the library had created an atmosphere in which their employees were open to feedback, rather than resisted it.

Here are 3 key take away points about how Heather and her colleagues create an atmosphere where her Gen Y employees respond positively to corrective feedback. BTW, notice how common sense these practices are and—how RARELY you see them practiced in the workplace:

1. There’s no wondering required – Prospective employees are apprised in the interview what the job would entail and what “being a good worker looks and sounds like.” This “behavioral vision” is kept in front of employees continually so they have a crystal clear picture of what’s expected of them. Thus, they know what they need to do to succeed.

2. Feedback is a regular part of work life – This is probably THE most important take away, and how Heather and her colleagues replicate the video game experience. At the UNH library, feedback is just a regular part of everyday life. When a work study student does something really well, they hear about it. When they go the extra mile, they hear about it. If they come in late, they hear about it.

Thus, feedback doesn’t always equal “I’m in trouble” or “I did something wrong” like in many workplaces. Because feedback is often associated with compliments and recognition, it doesn’t get associated with negative emotions. Thus, receiving feedback doesn’t automatically trigger defensiveness, like it does for many employees. At the end of this post, there's an article link that goes into more detail about this.

At the library, feedback is seen as:

• Just a natural part of working there (just like “feedback” is a natural part of video games)
• A necessary component to becoming even better.
• A natural consequence of both great and sub-par performance.
• A reminder that management notices and cares about performance.

3. There’s no mystery or surprise – Feedback is a real-time process at the library. Unlike many employees who get blindsided in performance reviews or after their boss has “had it up to here”, UNH library employees are pulled aside immediately when they’ve given subpar customer service or did something else below standard.

Remember, It’s Not What You Know...

If you’ve read my work long enough, you might remember one of my favorite truisms which I got from Jim Rohn:

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you DO with what you know that makes a difference in your life.”

I bet you knew the above three are important, but are you DOING them?

Ask your employees if you’re doing them or...

...if you could do them better...

...if you could do them more often...