Generation X are the latchkey kids all grown up. As the children of workaholics, they came home from school, unlocked their own doors and babysat themselves until someone eventually came home. This has developed two strengths for them. They are incredibly self-sufficient and they have no desire to make their work their priority as their parents did.
With Generation X there has been a huge surge of entrepreneurs and freelancers. This generation can figure it all out on their own without any outside supervision. They can set their own hours in order to do what they want. They will not sacrifice fun or family because they have seen their hard working parents stressed out, laid off and fired.
Contrary to belief, Generation X is not a group of slackers. They have instead chosen to define work a little bit differently. Generation X workers and their skills will be critical to the success of your organization. But you need is a way to keep them engaged and motivated, as they will not hesitate to take their abilities somewhere else if they are not happy. Here’s how:
1. Start by simply giving them a goal. They like to see what the desired end result is and work to get to that goal. They want to feel like what they do has meaning. This may simply be talking to them about how their contributions impact the bottom line.
2. Do not micromanage. Point them in the right direction and let them figure out how to get there. If you think guidance is needed, lay out an outline. When you micromanage a Gen X worker who doesn’t need it, you cause them a great deal of frustration and irritation. If they are performing well, back off and leave them be.
3. Offer them some sort of life balance. This could be in the form of flexible hours, extra vacation days, or opportunities to work from home or in other locations where their work might be accomplished. Gen X workers have full lives that matter to them.
4. Allow them to continue to learn. Money and status don’t resonate with them like generations before them. They judge themselves not by title, but what they know how to do. Their career is not like a ladder, but rather like a jungle gym. They want to climb all over and continue to learn and try different paths.
5. Have quick touchbases with them often. Because of this desire to continue to grow and learn they won’t complain about their job, they will just start to send out resumes for things that interest them. They won’t stay if things get stagnant. That’s why it’s important to initiate conversations to make sure they are getting what they need from their job.
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