Demystifying Generation X

With four different generations currently comprising today’s workforce, the middle managers are the glue holding the organization together. Increasingly, middle management is made up of Generation X, those born between 1964 and 1978, and Generation X is starting to move into upper management. Understanding their motivations is critical for successful companies, particularly as they move through the hiring process.

Generation X grew up watching their parents pay their dues, working long hours only to get laid off during mergers and downsizing. This has made many Generation X employees feel that changing jobs is essential for career development, and even normal. They don’t believe in 40 years and a gold watch; they believe in moving up by moving around.

Gen X comes with a healthy dose of skepticism, believing that actions speak louder than words. When it comes to company loyalty, they take this skepticism and are not impressed with promises of fast tracks to management positions during the hiring process. Gen X employees look for immediate work/life balance, particularly since many of them have children and families. They’re not looking for a position that will only give them balance after ten years of hard work and long hours. And once they find a position that gives them the work/life balance they need through a two-way partnership or contract, they are loyal to the company.

When it comes time to recruit Gen X employees in the hiring process, companies need to take a different tactic than the company branding that historically has worked with Baby Boomers. Gen X is looking for honesty and corporate responsibility. They will interview their prospective employers to learn how the hiring managers view the company. They also want the recruitment process to be quick, as Gen X will often take the first offer presented instead of holding out for the perfect job. After all, they are generally quite comfortable with change as it pertains to their careers.

In the workplace, Gen X is more comfortable learning as they go and going through any mandatory orientations online. Long-winded history and motivational speeches will not impress Gen X; skip those and the Gen X employee will transition easier.

As for retention, Gen X employees can be retained despite lacking the level of loyalty of Baby Boomers. Gen X needs regular feedback instead of the yearly performance evaluations favored by Baby Boomers, preferably in a less structured, more informal manner.

Gen X also approaches teams differently, assembling and changing teams faster than Baby Boomers, as well as breaking into sub-groups or working by themselves on projects. Gen X will trust their teammates to make decisions, as well as trusting that other group members will trust them. They also are driven by output as part of their work/life balance, and they believe that work doesn’t necessarily have to be completed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., as long as it’s done right and on time. When working with Gen X employees, companies need to remember that flexibility, personal time, and a fun work environment go a long way toward retaining Gen X employees, rather than future promises of management opportunities.

How to Attract Top Talent: Get the eBook