In today’s workplace, our employees are drowning in work and starving for feedback. A recent study by TriNet said that 74 percent of millennial employees feel “in the dark” about how their managers and peers think they’re performing. While at the same time, according to Bersin by Deloitte, millennials say their “teammates” are the most important people at work. As learning and development professionals, this presents a dilemma as well as an opportunity when it comes to training.

The dilemma is that training methods need to change. The most recent trends, from Center for Learning and Performance Technologies and Bersin by Deloitte, 2014, indicate that company training is actually the least desirable way for employees to learn.  The preference for learning has moved towards knowledge sharing with peers and self-directed learning. This involves a very different learning experience, one that is shorter in length, experiential in nature, allows for more self-direction, and of course incorporates collaboration with peers.

The opportunity is to design training with feedback in mind. This is not feedback from a facilitator or a teacher, but from peers whose opinion is more important to our growing workforce of millennials.  Designing with feedback in mind requires a shift from the traditional classroom training that includes lecture, and even from the flipped classroom that focuses on discussion.  This might seem daunting, yet there are a few ways to adjust learning techniques from the past and recreate them as powerful feedback tools that appeal to today’s learners and workforce.

Include Peer Feedback into Partner Activities

Transform any partner activity or role play into an opportunity for peer coaching and feedback. After the activity or role play is completed, create a simple scorecard that is no more than one page. The scorecard should summarize what practices the learner applies in the activity and the desired outcomes the learner was trying to achieve. Identify the possible outcomes of the activity and summarize on a continuum from least desirable to desirable.

At the end of the activity, provide directions and time for peer feedback (20-30 minutes is recommended). Have learners take five minutes to self-assess and then assess their partner and spend the remaining time taking turns and sharing the results with each other.  This brings socialization into the classroom and promotes sharing and collaboration. This can also help to embed feedback models and language into the day-to-day way of doing things and vernacular of an organization. If there is specific language to reinforce, ask learners to use it. For example, for positive feedback have the learners fill in the blank and share with their partner: “During the call, you did ___ very well.” And similarly, for constructive feedback: “One suggestion I have for you is to ___.”

Create a Leaderboard for Group Activities

For any group or team activity such as a simulation, project, or presentation, create a scorecard.  Combine objective measures such as financial metrics and important actions such as preparation, analysis or market research with subjective measures such as an assessment of dynamics like teamwork, collaboration and quality of decision-making.  For the subjective measures, identify assessors in addition to the group itself.  For a few measures, have groups assess each other.  Then, create a mechanism to score groups and collect the scorecards to create a leaderboard.

Today’s workforce wants to know where they stand in comparison to others.  These scorecards and leaderboards help to provide that type of feedback.  In a New York Times interview, and published again in a SHRM article, Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, a San Francisco-based cloud communications company summarized wonderfully why twenty-somethings need so much feedback: “They want to always be learning, always be growing … It’s not that they’re looking for constant praise, but rather they want to keep score. They want to know how they’re doing.”

Transform Scorecards into Feedback Reports

A final way to design with feedback in mind is to take the scorecards that have been completed throughout the training and compile them into a comprehensive report for learners that summarizes their feedback from the training program. Share any scores in a heat map format highlighting “best” and “average” so that learners can again see how they compare. This final report could be a great tool to encourage follow-up conversations with supervisors and managers or a coach or mentor.  Even though training itself has changed, what has not changed is the fact that training has more impact when supported by the learner’s manager and supervisor back on the job.

As mentioned, designing with feedback in mind is a dilemma, as well as an opportunity. The dilemma is the need to make changes – minor and significant – in how people view, design and execute training. Yet the opportunity is so much greater.  Organizations have a growing need to recruit, develop and retain this growing millennial workforce.  Transforming training into a vehicle for feedback is an important step in the process of creating a workplace culture where millennials want to stay and grow.

Amy Happ is a Performance Consultant with Advantexe Learning Solutions.

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