What about Gen Xers?

Image: What about Gen Xers?

Gen Xers in the Workplace

Earlier this month, n-gen spoke at the Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion conference held in Calgary, Alberta. During the day, one of the participants mentioned to me that she noticed that in the discussions of generations in the workplace that most speakers either focus on Baby Boomers or Gen Ys but never exclusively on Gen Xers. I had to agree that, in the last four years or so, rarely is the focus exclusively on Gen Xers – what to do to recruit and retain this generation.

Focusing on Baby Boomers or Gen Ys

Over the last 11 years of working with hundreds of clients, n-gen has seen a shift of focus. When we first started working and presenting with senior leaders there was a strong interest in understanding Gen Xers. In fact, most of the challenges (and let’s face it – complaints) were often about Gen Xers. As facilitators, we would often jokingly say to audiences “you think we are bad, wait until Gen Ys are on mass in the workplace, they are Gen Xers on warp speed.”  Now that the focus has shifted to Baby Boomers and Gen Ys, Gen Xers are no longer a primary focus when building recruitment, retention and leadership practices.

Gen Xers Feel Passed Over

Not focusing on Gen Xers is short-sighted, as they are a crucial demographic for any organization. Not uncommonly, organizations’ HR and leadership practices focus on Gen Ys, such as creating ‘CEO advisory councils’ populated by early in career.  In this case, Gen Xers believe they are being passed over again. Gen Xers are tired of feeling that organizations first only paid attention to Baby Boomers values, behaviours and expectations and, that now, organizations are only paying attention to Gen Ys.

The Need To Include All Four Generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys

In n-gen’s workshops and consulting, we always set the context of speaking about one generation in relation to the other three. While the percentage of Traditionalists (69+ years old) still actively working might be low in your organization, their values, behaviours and expectations are often still deeply rooted in many cultures, including but not limited to banking, finance, insurance, government and manufacturing. So it’s important to identify how this generation impacts your organization’s operational and leadership practices which in turn allows for greater or lesser performance

So really…what about Gen Xers?

Gen Xers are a different cohort than the other three. Gen Xers do seem stuck in middle, like the odd one out. Gen Xers bring skills to workplaces that are often appreciated, but under-valued. Their independence is interpreted as being a ‘poor team-player’, rather than being viewed positively as being able to work self-sufficiently. Gen Xers strong results orientation is sometimes seen as being a ‘bull in a china shop’, rather than as being focused on the bottom-line, achieving required KPIs (key performance indicators).

In training leaders on engagement and on creating HR strategies, Gen Xers are a critical cohort not to be overlooked. Otherwise, you might find that it’s this cohort that is the hardest to retain and engage.

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