Generation X: A Transitional Generation
Do your Generation X employees feel overlooked?
There is no official range of dates that identifies Gen X versus Baby Boomers or Millennials. Researchers and commentators are free to choose their own dates, which variously appear as 1965-1980, 1960-1980 or 1961-1981. Regardless of the exact span, Generation X is widely considered to represent a much smaller population. That makes them easier to discount.
What makes Generation X different?
This is indeed the Transitional Generation. Gen Xers grew up with family dynamics very different from the Baby Boomer experience. Instead of Mom-at-home and Dad-as-bread-winner (and away from home much of the time), Gen Xers had single parents or lived in two-income households. With adults in short supply, this generation learned at an early age to function independently. But they also yearned to spend more time with their families.
They bring their upbringing into the workplace. Baby Boomers tend to prefer structured working environments. Millennials love loosely formed groups and collaboration. The independent mindset of Generation X doesn’t mesh well with either.
Most Baby Boomers have held only a few jobs throughout their career. We think of Millennials as “job hoppers,” a frustrating attitude for many HR professionals. Generation X isn’t always looking for another position, but they will if you make them feel welcome and recognize their contributions.
The thing is, your company can benefit by embracing Generation X.
Researchers note that Baby Boomers and Millennials work well together despite their marked differences. That’s great news for corporate growth and innovation. But don’t let your excitement about incoming Millennials cause you to squander the value Generation X brings to your company. They have much to offer, if you respect their differences and provide appropriate opportunities.
Generation Xers can easily feel stuck in the middle. They’re the ones that must work with both older and younger colleagues. As managers, they have to encourage and accommodate very different work styles among their team members. But as the Transitional Generation, they are perfectly positioned to help transform your company’s workforce as it evolves from Baby Boomers to Millennials.
Doing these things will help Gen Xers in your organization thrive:
- Be flexible.
This is the generation that values balance between work and personal life. Flexibility in scheduling, policies and procedures feeds your Gen Xers’ independent nature. For them, accomplishments count more than structure. They’re still more likely to stay late at the office to finish a project than their younger co-workers, but they’d appreciate the chance to work remotely, too.
- Be fair.
They want to be treated as equals. They’re willing to be supportive and loyal to your company, but they want the same in return.
- Open the door to opportunities.
They like to learn new things, so help them do that with personal development opportunities, rotational job assignments (or at least the chance to see first-hand how the rest of your company operates) and leadership-building skills. Help them advance up the “corporate ladder,” rather than viewing them as placeholders till your Millennials are ready to move up.
- Open the lines of communication.
Keep them apprised of company progress, their own progress, project updates, etc. Encourage them to express their opinions and openly discuss ideas with co-workers. Listen and act on their ideas.
- Equip them well with technology.
Generations that grew up with the latest technology in hand expect nothing less at work, and tech tools support the efficiency and flexibility Gen X craves.
- Recognize their accomplishments.
- Generation X may not ask for rewards, but they want to be rewarded for work well done. Who doesn’t?
Do everything you can to make the most of their talents and approach. But be prepared for the next transition, as more and more Millennials come into your organization, bringing their own dynamic.