As I mentioned in an earlier article, those from Generation X were raised in an environment that made them regard work in a way that is different from the generations that came before and after them. It is necessary to be aware of that, and consider the way you communicate with them and manage them accordingly. The high level of feedback that Millennials require will not produce the best results with Gen Xers, and neither will using traditional work methods and technologies, as will work well with Baby Boomers and Traditionalists.
Gen Xers were the latchkey kids, often raising themselves. And living through recession and an oil crisis showed them that authority figures can make mistakes and often aren’t needed for business to move forward. They’ve determined the direction of their lives, and they like to see that they can continue to do so—when recruiting them and developing them, show them how they can progress upwards in their careers, and how this can fit their goals. They want time for family and a life outside work as well, so offering flexibility is key in gaining and retaining Gen X employees.
Another aspect of growing up in uncertain times, such as watching their parents lose jobs that were thought to be secure and watching the Soviet Union, makes it important to have systems that give them instant feedback. They don’t need feedback on the same level of personal approval that Millennials crave, but they do need high levels of affirmation concerning their position in an organization is safe.
Employees of this generation, with their appreciation of autonomy, like to know up front how they can expect to be directed. Discussing project ideas and desired outcomes can make Gen Xers feel comfortable moving forward with their work and knowing what they’re doing without a lot of direct supervision is important to them. Leslie Crickenberger, executive director of human resources, says, “The key is to be honest and open [regarding their supervisor’s management style] so that the Gen Xer can determine whether or not [this position] would be a good fit based on their need for flexibility and autonomy.” However, Gen Xers also pride themselves on their adaptability, so if the dynamic at work changes, they will probably feel job satisfaction with how well they keep up with the situation.
They tend to be more tech-savvy than the Boomers before them, so it can sometimes be helpful to team them together—the Boomers will be able to share their experience and expertise, and the Gen Xers will be able to help them keep up with digital communications in the workplace. As with all generations, communication is key, and demonstrating in teams how each generation can help each other with their individual strengths will get the best outcome from everyone working together.
How are you keeping your Gen Xers satisfied with their lives both in and out of the office?
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