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Managing the bottom of the line: Generation X - the new workforce

August 17, 1999

With the majority of baby boomers close to retirement, young Australians, known as Generation X, must now play even a more significant role in the country’s economic future.  In light of this fact a company’s success in the next millennium will depend on its ability to turn the extraordinary promise of Generation Xers’ into a reality.

 

If this hypothesis is true, Australia could have a grave future for most employers do not understand how to motivate and coach this new thinking generation.  Senior employers often misinterpret their younger members of teams eccentric attitudes as lazy, selfish and even reckless towards the old treats of loyalty.  Treating Generation Xers like other generations of employees is not productive.

 

To manage Gen-Xers effectively first it is important to understand where they are coming from and what makes them different from baby boomers.  Statistics suggest that most Gen-Xers are hard-working, ambitious nomads in search of economic security.  Today worldwide there is a greater number of entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 to 34 then ever before.

 

Bruce Tulgan, CEO of Rainmaker, a Connecticut-based consulting firm that specialises in managing Generation Xers’, best describes this difference:  “Xers grew up in an era where we watched employees give their all to a company - only to receive a pink slip when they arrived to work on Monday morning.  Because of that, Xers’ know job security doesn’t come from a company.  We know that the only way we can get job security is through ourselves and our skills.  Therefore, we must find a job where management will allow us to learn new technology and develop new skills.  We place a premium on the value of each work experience as it accrues new skills to us.”

 

If this is the case then employers must respect Gen-Xers need for independence and creativity.  This attitude must be managed as a resource and not a threat, for an under-invested Xer, is an uninterested member of the team.

 

However, this investment goes both ways.  Xers are always looking for evidence that investing in a particularly employer-employee relationship is worthwhile.  This is how Gen-Xers decide whether a job is just a job, or has the potential to be something more.  And once an Xer has found a challenging position, at which they are respected as peer, then they are most certainly a dedicated and loyal employee.

 

What is the secret?

 

The secret to keep the interest of a good Gen-Xer on team is to convince them that your company is a worthwhile focal point of their personal growth.  Don’t be afraid to break down the wall between your Gen-Xers’ job and the rest of their life.  Xers respect (and expect) good leadership - push and demand more of them than they may demand of themselves, however be sure to be a role model in this, be somebody who believes they are capable of achieving the impossible and is willing to help them do it.  Show you value their opinions and ideas, seek their input and don’t be shy to learn from them.  Provide your Xers unique opportunities to prove themselves, both professionally and personally - teach them and share life experience with them.  Care about them and help answer some of their deepest questions (remember most Xers like to live to work, not work to live).

 

Achieve these secrets in your corporate culture and you will have a team of dedicated, enthusiastic employees!

 

This article was first published in the Real Estate Institute of Queensland magazine

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