Have these conversations

Millennials appreciate opportunity to give feedback


January is often a time of new resolutions. This is a good time for leaders AND employees to plan for a high-performance, high-satisfaction year. One part of your planning for the upcoming year (with EACH of your millennial employees) should include an opportunity to reflect on 2015.

Millennials are interested in intentional leaders; leaders who have a vested interest in their work experience. They are less inclined than generations who preceded them to stick around if they work for an unimpressive boss. Almost universally, we are hearing organizations voice struggles with retaining their millennials. If you’re interested in retention, do not underestimate the power of conversation. Many young employees are feeling ignored, even invisible. They want time for informal conversations with their leaders. The launch of a new year can mark the time for a traditional conversation.

Leaders, if you have not done this already with your employees, have a conversation about how the year went. If you conduct formal performance reviews, you will want to follow this type of process to ensure a participative conversation. If you do not conduct formal reviews, you can use this same process to chat about the year more informally. Either way, the key here is CONVERSATION. While you, as a leader, are ultimately responsible for the performance of your team, each member of your team has a fairly solid opinion about how things are going. Employees want to be involved in the conversation, especially as it pertains to them.

Step one: Prepare a list of questions you would like to incorporate into your conversation.

You may consider questions like:

  • In general, how did the year go for you?
    • What did you feel particularly good about?
    • What did not go particularly well for you?
  • In what ways did you grow over the past year?
  • Where did you experience missed opportunities or disappointments?
  • If you were to rank your areas of responsibility by preference (No. 1 is your favorite), what would the order look like?
  • Category by category (work performance, quality of work, team collaboration, demonstration of company values, etc.)
    • What went well for you in this area of responsibility?
    • What didn’t go as well as you would have liked?

Step two: Reach out to your employee to schedule time for this conversation.

You might say something like: “I would like to schedule time to have a conversation with you about 2015. I’d like to hear your perspective about how things went for you.” At this point, schedule time (preferably one to two weeks out) and give them the list of questions to prepare. Ask them to invest focused time preparing for this conversation. Let them know in advance that you will share your perspective, as well.

Step three: Have the conversation.

Going into this conversation, a few reminders for you:

  • For each question you discuss, have your employee speak first. Remember, this was his or her experience.
  • As the employee shares reflections, you will want to delve deeper:
    • “Tell me more about that.”
    • “Can you share a couple of examples?”
    • “How did that make you feel?”
    • “What was the impact of that?”
  • After he or she has shared:
    • Acknowledge his or her perspective, particularly where you have noted agreement.
    • Add your perspective.
    • Avoid the phrase, “Now, let me tell you what I think.”
    • Instead, use the phrase “Let me add a few things that you didn’t mention (or that I see differently).”

Step four: Shift to a conversation about 2016.

You can informally ask, “So as you look ahead to 2016, what kinds of things would you like to continue, and what might you like to see done differently in comparison to 2015?”

At this point, it will be beneficial for you to remain in a mode of listening and curiosity. Ask questions, take notes, dig for more detail….particularly when you see something differently than the employee does. You can schedule another conversation to revisit planning for 2016.

As our client leaders have these kinds of conversations with their employees, the consistent response from the employee is GRATITUDE. And…grateful employees often stay where they are!

-Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Brookfield-based Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send questions to her at anorris@livingasaleader.com. To read all of her columns, visit the knowledge portal at www.livingasaleader.com.

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Aleta Norris is a partner and co-founder of Living As A Leader, a national leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. Living As A Leader supports the development of leaders in more than 125 organizations across the country. For several years, Aleta has been researching and speaking about the critical responsibilities organizations and leaders share related to the attraction, retention and engagement of the emerging workforce.

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