Article 3: Demystifying Generation X

Think your work colleagues are from another planet? It could be due to the generation gap. ‘Bridging the Generation Gap’ is a five part series which looks at how the different generations behave in the workplace, with particular emphasis on Generation X and Generation Y.

The first article of this Generation Gaps series defined the three distinctive generations at work today and their key characteristics. This article takes a closer look at Generation X – those born between 1965 and 1977.

Members of Generation X make up a large part of middle management and are beginning to take over upper management roles. This group is a generation whose parents loyally worked long hours, only to get laid off during mergers. As a result Gen Xers see changing jobs as a normal part of career development.

Another product of their past is the tendency to be somewhat skeptical. They have an ‘Actions speaks louder than words’ attitude. Gen X candidates are unlikely to be impressed by promises of fast track promotions into management. They want a position that will give them a work/life balance now, not after ten years hard work. Build a true partnership and you will gain their loyalty.

Generation X is completely different from their predecessors, the Baby Boomers. When it comes to recruitment, they aren’t impressed with company branding, they want honesty and corporate responsibility. They are just as likely to interview you, wanting to know all about your views of the company. Make sure the recruitment process moves quickly. Gen Xers are impatient; rather than wait for the perfect job to appear they are likely to accept the first one offered. Remember, they are  comfortable with change and will happily move on.

Working with Gen Xers is different too. They like to learn as they go. When it comes to introducing them to the company, forget the boring history and motivational speeches. They prefer to get all that online.

But retention isn’t that difficult. It’s true that Gen Xers aren’t as loyal as Baby Boomers, yet they can be retained. But as ever, it requires a different approach. Baby Boomers wanted annual performance evaluations, Gen Xers crave regular feedback. As well as wanting continual feedback they like it to be informal and less structured.

Gen Xers have a distinct approach to teamwork. They build and change teams more readily than Baby Boomers. They are happy to form sub-groups or work alone for different stages of a project. When it comes to decision-making they generate a high level of mutual trust between themselves and other team members.

Work/life balance is paramount. Work is important to this generation but the emphasis is on output. They take the view that as long as they do a good job it shouldn’t matter when or where it is done. Flexible hours, personal time and a fun work environment will help retain a Generation X employee over future rewards.

Generation X is cautious, creative, realistic, and flexible. They are also innovative, independent and adaptable. They have the potential to be very valuable members of your company for many years – as long as you know how they ‘tick’.

The next article will explore the newest generation in today’s workforce…Generation Y.