The work buzz these days has been surrounding the millennials who are currently coming on board to companies and taking over the workplace, now at about 70 million strong. On the other end of the age spectrum is the Baby Boomer generation of workers, who account for another 70 million people, and who view their job and the job market very differently than their younger counterparts. But somewhere in between these two large and influential groups of workers are those born between 1965 – 1978, Generation X, only 46 million in number, but with their own goals, motivations, and priorities. As the demographics in the workplace change, the employees in the Generation X group of workers will become invaluable to companies. Here are a few suggestions for retaining these valuable employees and the talent they offer.
- Create a work culture of professional mobility: It seems that if Generation X workers don’t feel they are valued or being offered sufficient room to grow professionally, they won’t hesitate to leave their job. This could be a contributing factor to the fact that generation X actually represents the largest group of entrepreneurs in history. Research shows that Gen X workers respond to mobility and development more than a higher salary. They like to know that they are learning and developing new skills so that they are competent in many capacities. Employers that recognize this can take advantage of their employee’s eagerness by offering programs to help them develop professionally and offering them new positions within the company that move them sideways as well as upwards.
- Offer ways to maintain the work-life balance: For Gen Xers, life became work and vice versa. Barbara Jaworski of Kaa-Boom.com suggests that companies respond to this Gen X culture by giving certain allowances in the workplace to accommodate their lives. For example, offer flex-time that allows an employee to take time off to volunteer. Allow employees to work from home where, because of their connection to technology and social media, they can virtually be in the office and be just as productive.
- Recognize their self-sufficiency and utilize it: Growing up in an era where 50% of kids lived in a single-parent home meant most were latch-key kids, making them independent, self-sufficient individuals. Gen Xers feel less company loyalty and are more concerned about their own upward movement. If they want to move on to another opportunity, they will. Harness their tendency to be autonomous and self-reliant by offering projects they can tackle on their own and don’t micromanage. Offer them something brand new that requires innovative thinking and could have huge payoffs for the company. Put their name all over it when it’s accomplished.
Over the next few years, as Baby Boomers retire and move out of the workplace, Gen Xers will become vital to a company’s success. While they only amount for about half as many employees as the Baby Boomers, they are well-equipped for work and ready to work for those who respond well to their skills, future aspirations, and goals of work and life balance.
Do you take any special care to retain Generation X talent or at least recognize what motivates them compared to other generational workers? Sound off in the comments below!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Thomas Leth-Olsen