Looking at unemployment numbers in the United States, it’s tempting to believe that business owners have their pick of talent and have no trouble filling positions. The reality, however, is a different story. According to a September 2011 article in The Economist titled “Got Talent,”1 there are many employers who are already struggling to find qualified workers and who expect things to get worse as baby boomers retire.
One option for employers is to embrace Gen X workers (about 46 million people born between 1965 and 1978, according to the Center for Work-Life Policy).4
Understanding Gen X Employees
Despite what you may have heard, Gen X-ers aren’t a bunch of slackers clinging to their childhood Cabbage Patch dolls, sitting in cafes, listening to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They’re actually quite motivated.
But Gen X workers, more so than previous generations, may be motivated not simply by paychecks, but also by a desire to find meaningful and engaging work. Members of this generation, unlike the ones before, don’t expect to stay at one company for the entirety of their careers. The Manufacturer3 indicates that many members of this generation are interested in entrepreneurship, or they’re leaving large corporations in favor of smaller companies, in part because of dissatisfaction with corporate politics and mismanagement.
This means that to keep the workers your business will need to grow and thrive, you may need to overhaul—or at least make changes to—your company’s culture and environment.
The Center for Work-Life Policy recently released a study titled, “The X Factor: Tapping Into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation.”4 The press release for the study revealed a number of facts about Gen X workers, such as:
- 75 percent of Gen X women and 72 percent of men are self-described as “ambitious”—and they work the hours to prove it.
- 60 percent of female Gen X workers who don’t have children and 36 percent of male workers who don’t have children said that they feel their employers take their personal commitments less seriously than the commitments of people with kids.
A New York Times discussion of Gen X workers5 also indicated that many of them may be less focused on teamwork and more interested in their individual roles at work and in their own professional advancement.
Attracting Gen X-ers
By understanding the causes of dissatisfaction for Gen X workers as well as the things that motivate them, you can take steps to make your company culture more Gen X-friendly:
- Recognize the needs of workers who don’t have children and give them the same consideration as workers with children in terms of flex-time opportunities or time off to attend to personal needs.
- Understand and address the top reasons for employee dissatisfaction. Hay Group6 identified some of the top reasons employees leave their jobs as insufficient advancement opportunities, unpleasant working conditions, lack of meaningful work, dissatisfaction with company direction, or a feeling of not being recognized for the work performed.
- Drive home the point that employees receive benefits for their hard work. This doesn’t necessarily have to cost you more money in terms of salary or additional benefits, either. According to an Unum press release on MarketWatch,7 simply educating employees about benefits through brochures or other channels can make a significant difference in employee satisfaction.
- Offer employees as much autonomy and decision-making authority as you are comfortable with. According to a study from the Economist Intelligence Unit,8 around 78 percent of workers surveyed indicated that having decision-making authority was a major factor in their desire to work for a company.
For more information, visit:
1. “Got Talent?”
2. Lockheed Martin: “About Us”
3. “HR: The Gen X Friendly Workplace”
4. “Generation X: Overlooked and Hugely Important, Finds New Study From the Center for Work-Life Policy”
5. “Working Relationships Across Generations”
6. “Engage Employees and Boost Performance”
7. “Employee Benefits Season Gives Employers Chance to Boost Employee Morale”
8. “Global Firms in 2020: The Next Decade of Change for Organizations and Workers”