In this edition of Generational Viewpoints, we’ll explore perspectives of two team members on the way their respective generations view and value performance feedback. We asked Generation X shareholder Kristin Murray, born in 1968, and Millennial manager Rachel Werner, born in 1983, from Houston-based Weinstein Spira (www.weinsteinspira.com) to answer the following question:
“How does your generation view and value performance feedback? And if you perceive differences from other generations, what are they?”
MURRAY’S GENERATION X VIEWPOINT
Everyone wants feedback on how they are performing. A basic tenet of good feedback is that it is honest, timely and delivered in a tone and fashion so that the recipient hears and comprehends the key message. This seems to be a universal belief of all generations.
While my generation greatly values performance feedback, I think too much emphasis is placed on its delivery format. There is a time and a place for formal evaluation appraisal forms, evaluation meetings and goal-setting; however, effective feedback can be and often is delivered in other, less formal ways. If someone is hungry for feedback, all one needs to do is look around and see that feedback is present everywhere. You can review your own work and progression by asking yourself:
- Who is always in high demand when jobs are scheduled?
- Who gets all of the interesting or challenging projects?
- How many and what type of review notes am I receiving?
Performance feedback comes in many forms and you have to be perceptive to gain its value.
Generationally, Millennials seem to value feedback as much as and possibly more than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers. Their need for feedback is constant and they are relentless in their pursuit of it. The Millennial generation also seems to need a guided approach to addressing the feedback they receive. They want to tie feedback to their professional goals and to have a mentor who can help them create a path for growth. Generation X and Baby Boomers desire feedback, but don’t show the same sense of urgency and seem to be more attuned to absorbing it from the cues around them.
Each generation wants to receive authentic performance feedback and knows that it is crucial for progression as a CPA. While it’s not always fun to receive or deliver, it is an important function for mentoring and growing in a public accounting firm.
WERNER’S MILLENNIAL VIEWPOINT
I have always dreamed big (because my parents and teachers all told me that I could do anything I wanted), and have always wanted to know what I need to do to get to the next level. When I was younger, the conversation usually revolved around how to get the starting pitching position on whatever softball team I was on at the time. As a manager, the conversation now revolves around what I need to do to make partner.
I love the structure of a CPA firm, because you are typically assigned a “coach” who is your mentor at the firm and provides feedback from evaluation meetings and helps with goal-setting. I love to dream and set goals and am motivated by the idea that good performance and accomplishing tangible goals equals promotions and raises.
I am impatient with giving and receiving performance feedback in the traditional way — through a form based on numbers and metrics — because I find it cumbersome, time-consuming and less valuable or meaningful than written or verbal feedback. However, I love receiving feedback in any way I can get it.
My personal preferences are generally aligned with the typical preferences of most Millennials. Millennials tend to have clear personal goals and want an understanding of the company vision, prefer autonomy in their work, want a clear path to promotion, and desire lots of positive feedback. More specifically, most Millennials prefer feedback to be timely (i.e., at least quarterly), to be delivered with kindness (relationships with a boss or coach is critical), and to be specific (what needs to be done and by when in order to get to the next promotion).
Performance feedback is important to everyone, but the format and timing are often what differentiates each generation. Firms that understand the preferences and motivators of their individual employees, and provide feedback to align with those preferences, will experience the most engagement and growth from their people in return.
This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Marth, the Millennial consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success.
To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at email@example.com.
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