What You Need to Know About Generation X When Managing and Marketing to Them
No, they’re not from Mars, but Generation Xers are dramatically different from the Boomers. Here are the top 7 differences you’re likely to see between Boomers and Xers.
1. Their approach to authority is casual. It’s not that Xers don’t respect authority; it’s that they are unimpressed by authority. Xers grew up watching many authority figures fall from grace. Think Nixon, Jim Baker, and Jimmy Swaggart. Many also saw their parents (their first authority figures) divorce. What they witnessed has a definite impact on their views on authority. In Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace, the authors explain that Xers are likely to treat the company president in the same way they would the front-desk receptionist. Likewise, they are often skeptical of influencers at all levels.
2. They thrive in a casual, fun work environment. You would be hard-pressed to find a stuffed shirt Xer. Generation X prefers an informal and casual workplace. This goes for formal organizational hierarchies and processes, as well as the dress code. And we’re talking more than ‘Jeans Day’ once a week. In Generations At Work, the authors report that Many (Xers) assert that casual days aren’t just a perk: they actually make us work harder and get more done. Further, the authors of Generations At Work report that Anything that makes work less corporate resonates well with generation X.
3. Xers are pessimistic when it comes to their future. A survey of Generation X revealed that more Xers believed General Hospital would be around longer than Social Security. Xers have seen massive layoffs, slashes in company benefit plans, and significant market volatility. They are skeptical about their future, and almost no Xer expects to work at one company until retirement. Companies looking to hire and retain Xers should focus on promoting advancement within, retention, and benefit programs. There is also a substantial opportunity for the financial sector to make an appeal that focuses on controlling one’s own financial future and ensuring stability.
4. They have a nontraditional approach to time. (Surprise, surprise!) The attitude of many Xers is that ‘As long as I get my work done and do my fair share, what does it matter what time I show up or leave?’ They believe in being paid for delivering the work rather than their ability to clock in and out at a specific time. Don’t mistake this attitude with slacking. Xers grew up in flexible times, and they approach everything, even work schedules, with a flexible attitude. Things that make them more efficient and further enable their flexibility appeal to them.
5. The balance between family and work is critical to Xers. Many Xers grew up in two-income families. And as a result, there was no one waiting at home to bring them milk and cookies. Their parents made many sacrifices, including missing out on school plays and sporting events. Xers are determined to make work serve their lives and not the other way around. Promoting family-first values and policies is a great way to appeal to Xers.
6. Generation Xers tend to be technologically savvy. You’re probably not surprised to learn that Xers prefer to hold discussions and make decisions electronically over participating in traditional staff meetings and memos. Xers grew up with GameBoys, microwaves, and VCRs. Technology is second nature to them. Tech companies have a solid opportunity to target Xers amongst their early adopters.
7. Workaholism is not a trait you’ll find in many Gen Xers. While it may be common to see a Boomer who is a workaholic, this is not the case with Xers. They prefer to have a life over spending it toiling away at their desk. Companies can appeal to Xers with robust vacation offerings and travel opportunities. There is a vast opportunity for the lifestyle, travel, and entertainment industries from a marketing perspective.
You’re not alone if you’ve had challenges understanding, managing, or motivating your Generation X (1965-1980) employees and target markets. It takes a unique mix of skills, strategies, and smarts to motivate, convert, and manage this amazing, complex, and talented generation.