By 2018, the Generation X (Gen X) cohort is expected to contribute to the workplace in numbers totaling 65.8 million, occupying 60% of the current workforce. Following the Baby Boomers and preceding the Millennials, Gen X, comprised of those born between 1965 and 1980 and now in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, are the middle child of the generations.
As integral members of our work teams, what are some employee engagement strategies for raising the performance, productivity, and development of the Gen X employees within your workforce?
Offer management that prioritizes their autonomy
Growing up, Gen X was often referred to as ‘latch-key kids’, as many were accustomed to taking care of themselves at home due to the fact that both parents were in the workforce. This situation informs their characteristics of independence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, a hard-working work ethic, and adaptability in their approach to their careers.
With this do-it-yourself attitude, Gen X prefers an open management style and doesn’t necessarily prefer structured work hours. If you try to micromanage and control actions made by Gen X employees, you can potentially deflect their greatest assets – their ability to work independently and their creativity. If you want a problem to be solved and something done, give it to a Gen X-er, as they’ve been self-managing from a young age.
Offer rewards and benefits in the form of flexibility
As the originators of the idea of work-life balance, Gen X works to live rather than live to work, living by a work hard, play hard mentality.
In this point in their lives, Gen X-ers have worked hard throughout their careers to establish a settled state for themselves in the present, with families to provide for and homes to come home to. Thus, when it comes to rewards, they value benefits that prioritize the importance of flexibility in order to allow them to care for and spend quality time with their families and in their lives outside of the office.
To recruit, retain and motivate Gen X-ers, encourage their ability to manage their multiple priorities and appeal to their desire for balance and flexibility. Employers can start by developing family-friendly programs that offer flexible schedules, telecommuting, and job-sharing.
Offer leadership & learning opportunities
Currently, Gen X holds more than half (51%) of leadership positions around the globe. Seasoned and solid leaders and managers, the Gen X group also values opportunities for continued professional development and lifelong learning.
Brought up in an era of social change and technological change (their tech-savviness should not be underestimated, as they were the first generation to grow up with technology), Gen X embraces and thrives on diversity, change, challenge, responsibility, honesty, and creative input in the workplace.
Gen X-ers are primed to take the lead in teaching others while boosting their own learning. To foster their initiative and talents, put Gen X leaders in charge of training processes or of new projects. Not only will they be more satisfied with their jobs, but your company will also gain the benefit of new leadership that can help you grow your business. Give Gen X the responsibility to shape your organization and you will see great results from their efforts.
Offer a sense of making a difference
Having paid their dues from the onset of their careers, Gen X isn’t content with just proving their worth by doing what is required of them in their roles. Gen X employees want to feel like their work matters. When asked what is most important to them at work, 39% cite “the ability to make a difference in the organization,” which is right above recognition for their work (15%) and development opportunities (15%). For this group, it’s all about what they can do for your company.
If your employees are wanting to make their mark on your company in some way, help them by helping them achieve something bigger than they’ve envisioned. As executive coach Stephanie Somanchi advises, “appeal to their need to accomplish something beyond themselves with purpose and contribute to a higher ideal renews motivation and engagement.”
Discuss goals with your employees and work with them to fulfill the project ideas they have identified and shared with you. By supporting their need to make a difference, you will re-motivate your Gen X employees as well as re-invigorate your entire team.
Over to you
HR needs to consider the needs of all generations that make up the workforce. By implementing different methods of engagement aligned with what different generations value at work, you will set your company up for a truly engaged workforce.