"Imagine if Rafael Nadal only got feedback on his tennis once a year in an awkward … kabuki theater style manner from his boss."
So said Daniel Pink during his recent presentation at the 2011 World Innovation Forum in New York. His address covered a wide range of factors relating to employee performance, satisfaction and motivation.
While we've heard and covered some of Pink's thoughts on the subject of motivation before (short version: money doesn't always work), his take on how employees get and respond to feedback was particularly interesting.
As he sees it—and as the quote above makes clear—the single biggest problem he has with annual reviews is that they are, well, annual. And he pointed out that whatever problems go along with that sporadic approach today are only going to be magnified when dealing with the millennial generation. The reason: millennials are a group who have grown up expecting instant feedback from everything around them, said Pink. "They push a button, something happens."
Of course, the classic view of the annual review is that it's something that no-one really wants to do: who among us actually wants to participate in a review session, much less conduct one? But it turns out that many employees need reviews—even if they don't realize it.
Citing the results of a study that showed that people feel most motivated and loyal to their organizations on days where they are making progress, Pink raised an intriguing question: how can companies show employees they're making progress on a more regular basis?
His answer: more feedback, more often. But don't fret: none of that has to become a burden for managers. After all, as Pink pointed out, great athletes and musicians "don't outsource their feedback," so why do it for employees? Indeed, he advocates that employees should be encouraged to set their own goals and monitor their own performance against them. That is akin to the approach taken by top performers in other fields and is an important part of mastering a role or skill—something that Pink cited as a fundamental motivator for employees.
In addition, Pink also suggested that employees could benefit from peer to peer feedback—a system that allows people to be exposed to different perceptions of their work, while simultaneously reducing the burden on management to provide extra feedback.
Whether you believe the focus on employee motivation is relevant at this point in time or not, it behooves both workers and companies to pay closer attention to the concept of feedback. Because anyone who's not paying attention to constant improvement—especially in this economy—will have a hard time remaining competitive.
Daniel Pink: Money Isn't Always the Best Motivator), "I am your typical millennial. I want it all."
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