Generation Xers are Today’s Leaders – Invest in Them
Note: A longer version of this post originally appeared on CLO Media. Find it here.
With all the organizational obsession over how to integrate millennials into the workforce, and the worry over what to do about retaining the institutional knowledge of retiring baby boomers, Generation X has been all but forgotten, sitting between these two large generational cohorts like a “lost generation.” It gets no organizational love!
This is a big mistake. The people in your enterprise who will be the leading movers and shakers over the next 10 years are all members of Gen X. They are already taking the management reins from retiring baby boomers, and they will be the ones who have to manage onboarding for all those Millennials.
Because few organizations seem to pay Gen Xers much attention, activelyl developing this generation for leadership will be a huge competitive advantage.*
Throughout all the talk about how to manage millennials, and who will absorb all the great institutional knowledge of the baby boomers as they retire, Gen X is already conversant in the motivators of both generations. So with a manageable investment of directed development, they can step in and meet both challenges.
Gen X mindsets and habits smoothly bridge the gap between baby boomers and millennials. Put another way, millennial behavioral motivators aren’t special — they are just another step in ongoing societal shifts. Gen Xers are tech savvy, too. They just aren’t obsessed about it, and can operate without constant feedback and connectivity.
Large reservoirs of latent productivity will be tapped once you focus more program development time on understanding Gen X mindsets. Use that knowledge as a foundation to build more effective human development programming for this key leadership cohort.
How can an organization inspire the Gen Xers, who are currently most of the middle managers, to lead more effectively? Start by investigating what makes Gen X tick.
- How do they learn? They tend to be self –motivated and quite practical, so the training should be experiential, starting in the classroom but continuing with coaching, and tied to their particular job and goals.
- What are their collective motivators? More overt respect from learning and development people is the best place to start. Less chatter about “meeting the needs of Millennials” might do the trick all by itself!
- What is their balance of inner drive vs. inner cynic? They are outwardly worldly and “seen it all,” but will respond to authentic engagement efforts. And it might not take much more than “I see you, and appreciate all the work you are doing. How can we help?”
The people within Generation X are like all other people in this key regard: They appreciate appreciation, and find it motivating. You just have to experiment with how to deliver it, in what form and how often.
Asking them directly is probably the best place to start!
*Most of our middle management leadership work these days is actually with people in Generation X, so we have gotten to know them pretty well. They are indeed, the people who will be running corporate America over the next few decades.