Squeezed between old school Baby Boomers and tech-savvy Millennials, Generation X is an oft-forgotten generation. Nowhere is this truer than in the workplace, where Generation X struggles to stay engaged in an era of heated political debate, rapidly changing technology, and information overload. If you are looking for ways to re-engage your Generation X employees, here are a few tips for your consideration.
Generation X wasn’t born into a world of high-speed internet, smartphones and social media, but they were young and intelligent enough to recognize technology’s benefits and to adapt as it became available.Once they embraced the benefits of technology, they began finding new, innovative ways to use technology to streamline their workflow.
If you are primarily communicating with Generation X by phone or e-mail, you are probably making their work far more difficult than necessary. Both can be a useful tool when used properly, but when assigning tasks or working on long-term projects, these tools are often cumbersome and inefficient. Hastily written notes during a phone call are often lost or discarded. Important e-mail communications get sandwiched between correspondence from clients and vendors, spam messages, and announcements. Often, they are deleted, overlooked, or forgotten.
There are far more efficient tools available for communicating with employees. For example, a reliable intranet that includes forum style communications can be a highly efficient way to manage projects. You can create individual threads by topic where employees can interact with each other in real time without having to leave their desks. Those communications remain part of the thread for as long as you wish to keep them and are easy to locate at a later date. When employees are trying to remember your instructions about a project, they need only to open the thread and search that particular chain of messages for the information. No one gets left out of the loop and no one spends hours trying to track down an email from six months ago.
Have an Electronic System for Storing Information
To Generation X, nothing is more frustrating than spending hours attempting to track down a document only to discover that it was saved in a difficult to locate file on a coworker’s desktop computer or, even worse, that the only copy is a piece of paper stashed in the back of a cabinet. These situations leave this generation feeling frustrated and apathetic. That is why it is so important to have a systematic way for electronically storing information in a location that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Have a system. Train everyone how to properly use the system. Make sure they actually use it.
Resist the Urge to Micromanage
During World War II, women began entering the workforce in droves, forever changing our country’s family dynamic. A household with two working parents became the norm. As a result, Generation X learned to be self-reliant, resourceful, and independent. These are highly desirable qualities to most employers. However, it also means that Generation X is more likely to become bored and irritable in a work environment that micromanages its employees. Train them properly, trust them to ask questions if necessary, and stay out of their way. Your faith in them and a willingness to be open to creative solutions will pay dividends. If you really need to keep an eye on how work is progressing, try using a non-invasive tool like project management software (on its own or within an integrated customer relationship management system) to keep track of completed work during the project and then schedule in-person check-ins to ensure you’re on the same page.
Encourage Work/Life Balance
Generation X is the original champion of work/life balance. Their efforts to preserve relationships and create time for their hobbies and interests is part of the reason the workforce has changed so radically over the past decade. If you want to retain your Generation X employees and keep them engaged and interested in their work, respect their needs to have a life outside the office. It’s fine to keep them busy, but encourage them to leave their work at work. Give them time off for holidays. Pay them a living wage. Be flexible with work schedules. Depending on the type of work, allow them to work from home where possible.
Respect Their Rights and Opinions
We are no longer living in the days of the proverbial “good ole boy. Many members of Generation X were raised by people on the front lines of the civil rights era. They were brought up around hippies, activists, and the conservative backlash that came along with it. Understand that in today’s world of polarizing religion and politics, it will be almost impossible to create a work environment where everyone is going to agree on these issues. Unless you are an activist or religious organization, do your best to keep religion and politics out of the workplace. And by all means, protect employees who are from groups particularly vulnerable to attack. No matter how you or others in your workplace may personally feel about political affiliations, racial minorities, religious groups, immigrant status, or the LGBT+ community, employees affected by those beliefs will almost certainly check out at least on a mental level (if not quit their job entirely) if made to feel like a second-class citizen. Furthermore, in today’s world of social media and callout culture, failing to take action against discrimination or sexual harassment may potentially cost you far more than the interest of your Generation X employees.
Bridging The Multi-Generation Gap Infographic
Infographic provided by Award Concepts
Give Them a Reason to Care
While past generations were often satisfied with punching a clock every day, this generation needs more than just a paycheck to keep them interested in their work. If you want this generation to stay engaged, give them a reason. Get to know your employees and figure out what makes them tick. Play to their strengths and interests. If your employee is a particularly good writer, acknowledge it and find ways to let them utilize that skill in the workplace.If they enjoy working with others, try finding projects for them that will allow them to do so.Nothing will keep these employees more engaged than recognizing their skills and interests in a way that makes them feel as though their work is something worth doing. When Generation X is confident about work and doesn’t dread the workday, everyone is happier. Employees are more productive and engaged; then employers reap the rewards.
Mary Hutto is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She studied English/Writing at Western Kentucky University. She lives in Westfield, Massachusetts and often contributes to blogs as a guest writer. She also enjoys writing creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry in her spare time.
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