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Young Engineers Want Early Reviews of Their Performance and They Want Them Often.

[+] Author Notes

Sean Conrad is a senior product analyst at Halogen Software of Ottawa, Ontario, a provider of talent management systems. He can be reached at sconrad@halogensoftware.com

Mechanical Engineering 131(08), 24-25 (Aug 01, 2009) (2 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2009-Aug-1

This article highlights about young engineers who want early performance feedback on how they are doing their jobs. One difference is that younger engineers believe the feedback should stream to them the same way other digitized information does: instantly and often. Managers are finding that tying performance reviews and job feedback to an in-house software system not only makes the younger engineers on their staff happy, but also drives the company's overall performance. Engineering managers looking to attract and retain young talent need to understand that the newest generation of employees—members of Generation Y—seek more feedback and direction than do their older counterparts. Managers at firms with talent management applications in place find they spend less on salaries, bonuses, and other financial incentives. Kennedy/Jenks has clearly defined corporate strategies that are used to drive employees’ goals. Employee, manager, and department goals all contribute toward achieving corporate objectives. In automating the performance management process, Kennedy/Jenks has been able to create a culture where the value of each individual’s performance is clearly understood.

Like their older counterparts, young engineers want feedback on how they’re doing their jobs. One difference is that younger engineers believe the feedback should stream to them the same way other digitized information does: instantly and often.

Managers are finding that tying performance reviews and job feedback to an in-house software system not only makes the. younger engineers on their staff happy, it drives the company’s overall performance. These managers are finding that managing the newly minted engineer differs a little from managing even a slightly older engineer.

Younger engineers have been raised in an era of ondemand technology and the instant feedback it provides. And they seek the same type of ongoing performance feedback at their new jobs.

Managers would do well to keep these expectations in mind as they work with engineers now entering the work force.

After all, engineering firms need innovative programs to retain and develop their best and brightest, attract the new talent they need, and come out of the downturn in a competitive position. And who better to spearhead and work within these innovative programs than today’s young engmeers.

Historically, engineering firms have dealt with employee retention challenges by offering financial incentives or by enhancing working conditions; if these efforts failed, they could easily recruit from outside the firm. Today’s shortage of skilled engineering professionals, though temporarily lessened by the economic downturn, means that firms need new tactics to attract and retain younger professionals.

Engineering managers looking to attract and retain young talent need to understand that the newest generation of employees-members of Generation Y-seek more feedback and direction than do their older counterparts. Managers looking for the benefits that young workers can bring need to appeal to this generation’s requirement for feedback and direction.

At the same time, younger workers are looking for more than just money. They seek instant and ongoing performance feedback, clear direction, approval, transparency and a work-life balance.

That’s why leading engineering firms are putting programs in place to ensure that their young employee needs are met. They’re also increasingly bringing in automated talent management applications that offer frequently updated employee performance appraisals and employee performance evaluations. The frequent updates help provide ongoing feedback, increase employee engagement and goal development, and help align the employee’s individual goals with the company’s overall goals.

Managers at firms with talent management applications in place find they spend less on salaries, bonuses, and other financial incentives. Managers also report that these applications help develop a culture and an environment that attracts and retains young skilled professionals and meets these employees’ needs.

Such is the case with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, an engineering consulting firm in San Francisco.

The firm faced an increasing disconnect between the performance appraisals that managers conducted with employees and employee accountability. Sure, both employee and manager completed the performance review. But those reviews seldom resulted in action or changes on the younger employees’ part, said Ruth Robinson, the firm’s director of human resources.

"While our previous process had goals and expectations set for each employee, the follow-up and implementation of those goals was hit and miss," Robinson said. "We realized that we needed a more disciplined approach to goal management in order to drive accountability. As a professional services firm, our utilization rates or bill able hours are critical, and we wanted to link each employee’s contribution with how we are doing as a firm."

Robinson and her colleagues found that the younger engineers also sought this kind of ongoing feedback and. recognition.

At the sam.e time, a Kennedy/Jenks annual employee survey found that employees were giving lower scores to questions about the link between their perfornunce and the firm’s profitability. Younger workers didn’t see how their everyday jobs affected their firm’s fortunes.

With a new generation of workers joining the firm, this issue became a pressing one because members of Generation Y have clearly shown a desire to understand how their work is making an impact on the company, Robinson said. "While management had a clear picture of how employees contributed, we realized that we weren’t doing a great job of communicating this to employees," Robinson said.

This’ is particularly important as more members of Generation Y join the firm. Currently, 20 percent of the company’s employees are members of this generation.

About one year ago, the firm implemented a Web-based talent management system that Robinson said creates a culture of performance in which the link between individual performance and the firm’s success is clearly understood. The system is from Halogen Software.

"Many new employees are joining us right out of college, so there’s a lot of mentoring and feedback that we need to provide," Robinson said. "During the interview process, candidates ask us about performance management, professional development, and how they will be measured. Having this type of system in place is expected by the new generations of workers, and provides us with an advantage when it comes to recruiting and retention."

Kennedy/Jenks has clearly defined corporate strategies that are used to drive employees’ goals. Employee, manager, and department goals all contribute towards achieving corporate objectives.

"It’s now possible to define how our goals are set, measured and achieved. Everyone is accountable and more attentive to their utilization levels, which ensures we perform well," Robinson said.

In automating the performance management process, Kennedy/Jenks has been able to create a culture where the value of each individual’s performance is clearly understood.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME
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