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Lead Your Team Managing

Millennials Give Performance Reviews a Failing Grade

Millennials Give Performance Reviews a Failing Grade
Credit: Kevin_Hsieh/Shutterstock

It may not be what you say in performance reviews, but how often you say it, that could cause your youngest employees to look for another job, new research suggests.

The traditional performance-review process that is based on infrequent feedback is having a significant negative impact on many millennial employees, according to a study from human resources services provider TriNet.

The survey found that 62 percent of millennials have felt "blindsided" by a performance review; nearly three-quarters of the employees surveyed said they frequently feel "in the dark" about how their managers and peers think they're performing at work.

In addition, nearly half of the millennials surveyed think the current performance-review structure makes them feel like they can't do anything right.

The performance-review process leaves many millennials feeling angry, and some want to go as far as finding a new employer because of it. The study revealed that nearly 30 percent of the workers surveyed have looked for a new job after one of their performance reviews, and 35 percent have complained to a co-worker about it.

Additionally, 15 percent of the millennials surveyed said a performance review has caused them to curse, and another 15 percent said it's made them cry. [Why Negative Performance Reviews Don't Work ... Ever ]

Moreover, the research found that infrequent performance reviews are often overwhelming to millennials and cause them not to trust the accuracy of what's being said. More than 20 percent of those surveyed have called in sick because they were anxious about receiving their review.

Despite the innovation in so many areas of business in recent years, the approach to performance reviews is one that could still use an overhaul, said Rob Hernandez, product manager for TriNet Perform.

"Done well, they optimize performance so that workers can grow into leaders," Hernandez said in a statement. "Done poorly, they can be the catalyst for good employees to leave."

Based on the research, TriNet uncovered four ways employers can improve the performance-review process for millennials:

  • Be specific: Millennials would prefer to hear specific feedback in their performance review. The study discovered that 40 percent of millennials feel the feedback they currently receive is too vague.
  • Make it more conversational: Millennials would prefer that performance reviews be a chance to have a conversation with their boss rather than just an opportunity for their manager to rate their performance on each aspect of their job. More than 30 percent of the millennials surveyed said they dislike when their supervisors don't give them a chance to share their thoughts on their own performance during their reviews.
  • Give frequent feedback: Rather than only hearing about how well, or poorly, they're doing once or twice a year, millennials want consistent and ongoing feedback. The study found that 32 percent of those surveyed think reviews have replaced regular feedback.
  • Provide objective criticism: Oftentimes, millennials believe the feedback they hear during a review isn't fair. The research discovered that 31 percent of those surveyed feel the feedback they receive during performance reviews is biased or unfair.

"Companies need to incent millennials to step up and lead," Hernandez said. "A strong culture builds strong leaders, and performance reviews reflect that culture."

The study was based on surveys of 1,000 U.S full-time employees born after 1980.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.