The slow but steady upturn in the economy lately should be good news for many industries and organizations. However, many employers have yet to recognize that there may be some clouds hiding behind the sunny forecast – they haven’t yet realized they are at risk of losing one of their most valuable assets – employees they have taken for granted and yet rely heavily upon.
We aren’t talking about the over-50 Baby Boomer crowd or the late 20s to 30s Millennials, it’s the long-neglected Generation-X talent you need to worry about. This “middle-child” demographic only numbers in the 46-million range – much smaller than the 78-million Baby Boomer or 70-million Millennial workforce – yet for their size, Gen-X employees wield more clout for their smaller size.
Why Does the Gen-X Employee Matter?
Now approaching their late 30s and 40s, Gen-Xers are the knowledge-experts and skill bearers that companies will be depending on in the coming decades to maintain or gain a competitive advantage. And, as they approach the prime of their lives and careers, they are prepared for and positioned for leadership roles. However, their career progress is often blocked by Baby Boomers who are putting off retirement by decades and their advancement is threatened by the impatience of Millennials who don’t hesitate to leapfrog them. They’ve been loyal and dependable during years of economic insecurity, and don’t feel they can afford to play it safe now that they face what could be their last chance at moving up and finally getting the opportunity to grab the brass ring. In fact, according to a recent survey, the Center for Talent Management (CTM) found that close to 40 percent of Gen-Xers planned to leave their present employer within three years.
What Can We Do to Retain Our Gen-X Employees?
Generation-X workers are used to being maligned as the “slacker” generation, but while they tend to have a laid-back attitude, they are just as ambitious as other generations. And, they want a lot of the same things. Top on their list, not surprisingly, as they age higher salaries, more perks and benefits, and more control. Here are three other options you should consider in order to retain your Gen-X talent:
- Give them the chance to be in charge. CTM’s research also found that 70 percent of Gen-Xers prefer to work independently because they valued having control over their own work. According to a Society of Human Resource Management report, Gen-Xers are highly self-reliant and are typically individual players who work well in situations without well-defined conditions where the environment is constantly changing. Putting them in charge is a great way to highlight their talents and abilities.
- Hook then up with mentoring and sponsorship programs. Show them the route to the top by pairing your mid-level Gen-X managers with senior-level executives that will provide opportunities for career experience and enrichment and cultivate those relationships to help pave their path toward leadership positions.
- Offer flexibility in addition to higher pay and upward mobility. Extreme workweeks often topping 60 or more hours, 24/7 availability, tight deadlines, and unpredictable or excessive workloads are the norm for the Gen-X crowd. It’s not surprising that 55 percent of Gen-X men, and more significantly, 66 percent of Gen-X women report that flexible work arrangements and reduced work schedules are “very important”, even among childless employees.
As an employer, you can curb restlessness and dissatisfaction, and retain valuable talent by responding directly to Gen-X employee concerns. Offer them a chance to show their leadership potential, cultivate mentoring relationships, and reward them for their work ethic by providing safety valves to alleviate their extreme workweeks so they’re eager to continue sharing their skills, knowledge, and commitment to your organization.
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