Over the past several years, there has been a flood of articles and blog posts about the importance of developing Generation Y employees. Generation Y, which is comprised of individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, makes up about half the population of the worldwide workforce. For this reason, it is wise for leaders to understand how to motivate, engage and develop Gen Y individuals. However, this should not happen at the expense of doing the same for those of Generation X (and Baby Boomers, for that matter).
The Unique Qualities of a Gen Xer
Generation X individuals, or those born between the early 1960s and early 1980s, make up about 16 percent of today’s workforce. They generally have low levels of engagement in the workplace. In all the research being done about Generation Y in the workforce, Generation X sometimes gets overlooked. Honestly, Gen Xers are used to this. Theirs was the first generation that saw alarming divorce rates. Many Gen Xers are products of broken families and have learned to be fiercely independent as a result of their experiences.
Wikipedia makes two interesting claims about Generation X. First, it states that this generation is “less likely to idolize leaders and…more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions.” That said, Gen Xers often have issues with hierarchical workplace structures. This is because, according to Refresh Leadership, “They believe in respect earned by merit and performance, not tenure and title.” Wikipedia also makes the point that this generation “holds the highest education levels when looking at current age groups.” It is these very qualities that make individuals from Generation X desirable employees.
How to Engage and Motivate Generation X Employees
It is just as important for mangers to engage and develop Gen Xers as Generation Y workers. Here are a few practical examples of how to do this:
- Let them work remotely – It was mentioned earlier that Gen Xers like to be self-sufficient. Facilitate this by allowing them to work remotely as often as possible. They will love you for it, and they’ll probably get more done without the distractions of the office.
- Help them understand your company’s mission – Did you know that Gen X workers have to feel connected to your company’s mission in order to be engaged at work? The article There’s a Generation Gap in Your Workforce says, “For Baby Boomer employees, as well as Generation Xers, engagement is connected to having a strong sense of their company’s mission and purpose. Businesses that can find ways to help them understand and embody what their company stands for — and what it means to them personally — will keep them engaged or increase their engagement.”
- Promote them – Make every effort to promote a Gen X worker who deserves it. Generation X employees may value receiving credit for a job well done more so than people of any other generation. Respect is huge for them, so give honor where honor is due.
Are you engaging, developing and motivating your Generation X employees as intensely as your Generation Y workers and Baby Boomers? If not, workplace productivity will suffer. Gen Xers bring so much to the corporate table, such as creativity, leadership skills, the ability to work independently, and dedication. Without a doubt, your Gen X employees are assets to your company. The more you engage and develop them, the healthier your company will be.
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