How to Thrill the Cynical Generation

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skeptical model holding a bulb standing on a streetEmployee engagement experts have been talking about the disconnect between Gen X workplace expectations and what is actually out there for them for a while now, but it feels like change is happening pretty slowly. While exact dates vary from source to source, the general consensus is that Gen Xers are those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s.

There are currently three different solid generations representing today’s workforce: The Boomers, Xers and Millenials. Technically there are still a few Traditionals hanging around, but they are highly engaged and retiring soon. These are three different age groups with widely different expectations. Sorry to say, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to workplace satisfaction and engagement.

Common Workplace Issues for Gen Xers

Family Ties

It wasn’t just a show Gen Xers watched; it is a way of life. Gen Xers have another nick-name –The Latch Key Kids. This generation saw the commonality of two working parents, higher divorce rates and some rough economic times. For this generation, family comes first.

This could be hard for some of those go-getter Boomers in charge to grasp. Both parties need to understand that this isn’t a debate that neither party is going to win. Management needs work done, and Gen Xers will spend time with their families.

The solution here could be flex-work or telecommuting. Work doesn’t have to mean being in an office nor does it have to mean 9-5. Non-traditional work methods will mean that workers have to be spot on with scheduling and commitments. Family time has become so important that in a study of 950 tech workers, one-third of them said they would take a 10 percent pay cut to work remotely full-time. It also means that management will need to loosen the reigns a little, and grant their workers more freedom and responsibility.

Hard Work Gets You Nowhere

Traditional workplaces work very strongly off of hierarchy and tenure. A long tenure means respect and promotions. Gen X sees things very differently. They are a generation who believe that promotions should be based solely off of performance. They also believe that respect is earned, and not implied with a title or office. These ideals have the potential to ruffle some serious higher-up feathers.

The solution here is to reformat performance appraisals to incorporate issues that matter to everyone. Tenure can hold weight and so can performance. The key is to clearly communicate that performance and retention both matter greatly to the organization. Furthermore, that respect should be reciprocated by all.

Loyalty Schmoyalty

Before the recession, loyalty to the organization was paramount. Security was part of the gig. This isn’t so for Gen Xers. They feel that their security comes from their own talents and abilities, and their loyalties fall with their team, not necessarily their company. A large section of this generation has an average workplace tenure of 2.3 years, about half the national average of 4.6 years.

Building back trust in the organization is something that we all need to work at. If the organization wants loyalty and trust, leaders have to give workers something to prove they’re reliable. A great place to start is with continued training and the encouragement of employee growth. Employees feel more job security when it is apparent that they are valued and part of the organization’s succession planning.

It’s tough to keep a pulse on issues unique to different generations and how their solutions will affect other workers. It all starts with identifying those key factors in disengagement and finding the place to meet in the middle.

Read more in Employee Engagement

Courtney McGann is the content creator and PR gal for Red Branch Media, an Omaha-based marketing firm. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B marketing agency, primarily focused on human resources and global workforce vendors. In the past Courtney has managed online communities, professional social outlets, marketing campaigns and event planning.