Earlier this year my eldest son, then 23, quit his graduate job after months.
There were a number of things he found frustrating with his employer however one of the most significant was he didn’t know whether he was meeting his boss’s expectations. There had been a complete absence of feedback.
The final straw on his path to quitting was a meeting with his boss where he requested feedback about his performance and she replied, “We don’t do that sort of thing here.”
He resigned two weeks later and, after a couple of frustrating months of job search, secured a much better job with a smaller company where he receives regular feedback about his work. He loves his new job and he feels very motivated to do his best.
My son’s experience reflects the results of recent surveys about the importance of feedback at work, especially for younger workers.
Last year a study from Eagle Hill Consulting found that only 48% of employees receive feedback on an annual or semi-annual basis. More than half of workers said they want a review of their work performance.
In particular, 63% of workers seek more “in the moment” feedback when it comes to their work, with younger workers (74%) wanting this more than older staff (57%).
The benefits to both the employer and employee are clear: 82% of surveyed workers said they feel valued when someone takes the time to give them feedback, while another 79% said they feel feedback is important to their professional development.
These results were closely replicated last month when research from employee success platform StaffCircle found that 73% of Gen Z (16 to 24 years old) employees said they are more likely to leave an organisation if they don’t receive frequent managerial feedback and communication. On the other hand, only 52% of non-Gen Z employees said the same.
According to the responses from 1,000 employees and 250 HR professionals, just 15% of employees have regular weekly check-ins with their managers to discuss performance, a majority of employees (76%) only have a check-in once per month or less and of the HR professionals surveyed 20% admitted their organisation doesn’t have any type of performance management process in place.
These recent surveys support more rigourous research from the previous decade.
In 2011, The Society for Knowledge Economics released research from interviews with 5,661 employees in 77 Australian organisations. The findings demonstrated that the single biggest difference in leadership behaviour between high and low performing workplaces was the time spent by leaders with their team members.
In 2016, Google confirmed that through a careful review of their own company’s performance data, they could prove that frequent conversations between a leader and his or her team members was a leading indicator of a team’s high performance.
One of the most significant mindset shifts I received as a leader of recruiters was the clear message my ongoing success depended upon the success of my individual team members – no amount of personal billings would make up for my failure as a leader to develop the people reporting to me.
As a recruiter, my key customers used to be my candidates and clients.
As a leader of recruiters, my key customers were now my team members.
As one of my mentors once said to me, “Who is more difficult, to find and keep, Ross – a good candidate, a good client or a good recruiter?”
The easy answer had me unambiguously understand how to rank my competing priorities.
I learned that spending time with my team – observing their performance, providing formal and informal coaching, checking in with them frequently throughout the day, conducting weekly one-on-ones, and generally demonstrating my interest, care and commitment to each one of my direct reports was the most important part of my job as a leader.
It was important then, more than two decades ago, and it’s even more important now.
Leaders who forget this, do so to their great cost.