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Build Your Career Get Ahead

Craving Feedback? How to Find It and Put It to Work

Craving Feedback? How to Find It and Put It to Work
Credit: Manczurov/Shutterstock

The workplace has evolved in many ways in the last decade, and performance feedback is no exception. Rather than the annual check-in with the boss during review time, many of today's employees now demand and expect a constant, informal feedback cycle.

This is especially true among the millennial generation. A survey by Ultimate Software and The Center for Generational Kinetics found that 42 percent of millennials — who make up more than a third of the American workforce — want weekly performance feedback. The problem is, supervisors realistically can't fulfill that need all the time. 

"Managers and leaders within organizations don't always have the time to give the amount of feedback employees crave," said Kris Duggan, CEO of enterprise software company BetterWorks. "While managers should be completely aligned with their employees on top priorities and projects, they shouldn't be the only sources of feedback on employees' progression."

Rather than relying solely on their bosses, Duggan advised employees to seek out additional feedback from colleagues and professional contacts. Here are five other groups of people whose opinion on your career progress matters, and how you can incorporate that feedback at work. [Forget Performance Reviews! This Works Better]

Internal coaches. Is there someone in your company other than your boss whose career level you aspire to reach? He or she may be able to serve as an informal career coach for you. Engage in regular conversation with that person for advice on your progression, Duggan said.

"The key to successful coaching across an organization is complete alignment between c-levels, managers and all levels of employees," he told Business News Daily. "Once everyone is aligned, it makes it easy to 'coach' employees based on past experience and future expectations, while remaining aligned to company objectives."

Outside mentors. While your boss or higher-up co-worker can certainly serve as a mentor, Duggan noted that candid, objective feedback from a third party outside your company can be beneficial in shaping your career.

"Employees should seek an ongoing mentorship based on what they aspire their career to be down the road," Duggan said. "You can rely on mentors to offer big picture advice, which can be refreshing for employees who are trying to see past the daily grind."

Senior team members. No matter how high up in the company you are, you'll still have to answer to someone. Regardless of your rank and department within the organization, you owe it to yourself and your colleagues to listen to the opinions of upper management, especially when you're making big decisions.

"My boss's opinion ... definitely matters," said Gretchen Tibbits, COO of lifestyle media outlet LittleThings. "[But] the opinions of our senior team ... are equally important. Their input provides the checks and balances that we need to continue the incredible growth trajectory of the company."

Workplace peers. Don't discount the opinions of co-workers who are on your same level or work in a different department. Simple gestures and communications from your fellow employees can serve as daily feedback, too, Duggan said. For example, a "like" on your post to the company intranet, or a positive reaction to something you said in a group email thread or instant message can provide affirmation from teammates.

Former colleagues. Just because you no longer work with a person doesn't mean he or she can't have a lasting impact on your career. Whether they're co-workers from your previous company or someone who left your current employer, you should stay in touch with former colleagues whose career goals align with your own so you can continue to help each other thrive.

"I still look to the incredible group of women I worked with at WorkingWomanNetwork (WWN)," Tibbits said. "I credit much of my success in media to what I learned from these pioneers, from management style to leadership skills."

Duggan offered the following tips for taking all the feedback you receive from various sources and integrating it into your daily professional life.

Set goals. When relying on multiple sources of feedback, it's important to have goals in place so you can remain focused on what you're trying to achieve. Duggan recommended setting and revising goals quarterly, and ensuring those goals are ambitious enough to help you grow.

"Whether you're meeting with outside sources or your boss, use your goals and progress as the baseline for conversation," he said. "Having this consistency will help you focus on real improvement. If you don't know where you're going, how can you possibly navigate getting there?"

Seek out solutionsThe feedback you receive from outside mentors and coaches can lead you to potential solutions to roadblocks you're having at work. When you do meet with your manager, use your time wisely to present the problem and recommend solutions, Duggan said. This will not only make for a more productive meeting (your boss likely doesn't want to hear you complain about your problems without proposing a solution), but it will also help you progress and get the answers you need to be successful.

Be honest. Ask yourself what you hope to achieve in your current role, Duggan said. Know where you want to be next quarter, next year and five years from now. Make the most of your conversations with any feedback source by being honest and clear about your long-term goals.

"The people giving you feedback want to help you improve, whether that means immediately, or setting you up for future career success," Duggan said.

Nicole Fallon Taylor
Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.