The workforce of 2015 is more culturally, gender and age diverse than ever before. With many businesses now employing around four generations of workers, it is important to cater to many expectations.
Fresh faced Millennial’s are working alongside soon to retire Baby Boomers. By understanding what motivates your employees, you hold the key to providing a work environment and suitable benefits which are of most interest to your workforce.
In this four part series, we’ll explore each generation populating the workforce. What makes them tick? Understand their youth, their working lives and how to motivate and communicate with them.
Generation X 1965 – 1979
The Young Generation X
Born at a time when two working parents was becoming the norm, rather than the traditional home unit of Husband, Housewife and 2.4 children; Generation X were determined to be independent and believed respect should be earned, not expected.
Much more receptive to new technology, ideas and media than their parents, Generation X’s were the first group where computers were to be used for both work and leisure. They received information faster and in greater quantity than ever before and although they were not true ‘digital natives’, Gen X’s weren’t scared of change and actively embraced this new lifestyle.
Generation X saw the world ‘shrink’ as travelling abroad became quicker and more affordable. Concorde would take to the sky during their youth, offering a new style of luxury which previously many would have been unable to afford.
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The Changing Office
Striving to do better in life than their parents, Generation X entered the workplace as enthusiastic and hard working, but as young adults, many were badly hit by the economic downturn of the 1980’s. Faced with negative equity on their homes and spiralling debts on credit cards, this generation suffered a second blow with the 2009 recession hitting them in the prime of their work and home lives. Fortunately, this generation are also incredibly resilient and learn quickly, and so were able to push through until the economy levelled out again.
Throughout the Thatcher government and beyond, huge changes were happening to the office environment. The steady introduction of personal technology to the workplace led to the phasing out of traditionally female roles such as typing pools and operator switchboards.
With over 60% of women in the workplace by 2000, change had truly arrived. Tasked with the same jobs as their male contemporaries, the working women was now a familiar sight. For Generation X it was now normal that after marriage, a woman would chose to continue working, a luxury not afforded to previous generations. Similarly the choice to take career breaks to start a family or to postpone doing so until later in life were now accepted.
Achieving Work/ Life Balance
This generation is the most complex in terms of achieving a good work/life balance, as although Gen X’s are willing to work hard, family and home life takes priority. Due to this, it is a good idea to assess your rewards and recognition scheme to make sure your company offering will appeal to the two distinct age brackets within this generation.
Young Generation X (born 1972 – 1979) is likely to have families with younger children. Rewards such as tax exempt childcare vouchers and discounted day trips to family attractions such as zoo’s or theme parks, are going to be of vast appeal to this group. Of course, as well as being parents, this group need the chance to be ‘Jane’ instead of ‘Mum’ and ‘Chris’ rather than ‘Dad’. Opportunities for time away from children can be few and far between so rewards like restaurant gift cards for your employee and their partner, weekend getaways and discount spa treatments are also likely to be a great motivator for this group.
In contrast, Older Generation X (1965-1972) probably has grown children who have already flown the nest. Without the need to provide for children in the same way, this group has usually acquired more time to themselves and with it, a thirst for a new adventure. Due to this newfound freedom, this group has slightly more disposable income available and are now in a position to treat themselves on occasion. Try rewarding these employees with additional holiday time, discounts for luxury goods, pension benefits or travel opportunities.
Of course as a generation that went through not one, but two economic recessions, Generation X has become one of the more careful with their money through necessity. Offering them any opportunity to make their salary go further, such as a salary deduction onto a cashback card, or discount vouchers for essential shopping is going to be winners with this generation.
For all Generation X health is a major consideration. Cycle to work incentives or discounted gym memberships as a reward will be very appealing. Corporate wellbeing is also of huge importance to them and small changes to the office environment, such as offering free water coolers instead of traditional vending machines, and relaxation areas, where employees can unwind during down times, will go down well with this generation.
Recognition is Key
Generation X is happy to get on with difficult work, so long as it is rewarding and offers clear routes for progression. Many will sit at Executive or Manager level in the workplace, and they are likely to have settled into their career. Clear goals in the workplace are important for this group and recognition in front of their peers is well received.
More than comfortable with email and getting to grips with most other forms of technology, this generation are to the point, so try not to litter your communication with small talk and unnecessary information. The owners of smart phones, tablets, laptops and digital TV’s, Generation X have established the balance of technology in their professional and personal lives, and would struggle as much as the younger Generation Y and Millennial’s if this were to disappear.
To communicate efficiently to Generation X, it is advisable to promote information across multiple platforms; they live a very hectic lifestyle and will possibly only spare a few moments to read internal communications.
With a fair few years left until retirement, Generation X is at the peak of their working life. By treating them with respect, offering development opportunities often and valuing their opinions, you will ensure a happy workforce for years to come.