XYZ – The Generation X

Published on 08-03-2018

X, Y and Z. What exactly distinguishes these generations? How do they behave in the work field? A better understanding of the generation’s differences and commonalities can be a great advantage in today’s war for talents. That is why we will have a closer look at each generation in our new blog series. Starting off with Generation X!

Before we start elaborating on the distinctive characteristics, motivations and work preferences of Generation X, we need to discuss the limitations of this approach. Generation research is a highly discussed area and has at least as many critics as supporters. It is important to understand that every individual develops a unique personality and has specific values, aims and traits. The division in generations only summarises overall, outstanding characteristics and should not be used to stereotype or generalise whole generations.

Now, baring this fact in our minds, we can have a closer look at Generation X. In this Blog post the following areas are explored in detail:

  • The generation’s definition, core values and specific features
  • The behaviour of Gen X in the work field
  • Implications for successful recruiting of Gen Xers

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An infographic, which summarises the main results as well as reveals additional information can be downloaded for free!

Generation X – definition, core values & specific features

The Generation X was born between 1955 and 1970 and is often referred to as the “lost generation”. This is due to the fact that the Xers grew up in times of economic crises and social insecurity. Also, family structures changed, the divorce rate was rising and the first patchwork families emerged. Moreover, the generation was confronted with an enormously high youth unemployment rate in the 70s and 80s. The job search for University graduates was comparable with the search for a needle in a haystack.

Also, the place within society wasn’t clear for many Xers. Where the baby Boomer found their place in the tumultuous 60s, the Generation X struggled to find their “true sense”. In contrast to the previous generation, Xers didn’t express their protest in physical opposition or demonstrations but remained more down-to-earth. Thus, for example, the old-fashioned picture of the marriage and early parenthood was being questioned. More and more well-qualified men and women lived together without marrying or starting a family. Especially women of Generation X became less depending on their husbands and started fighting for female leadership possibilities in the work field.
Generation X also belongs to the generation, which was extremely confronted with new technologies, like computers and mobile phones. These developments had a huge influence on the communication behaviour of the generation.

To sum up, Generation X questioned authorities and traditions. Independence, relativism and individualism are high-respected values of the generation. In addition, new communication devices, such as mobile phones and emails, became fixed parts of the private as well as work life.


Generation X in the work field – Working, to live

The previous generation of Baby Boomers was known for their strong work attitude – they lived to work. This changed enormously in terms of Generation X. This generation viewed work as the means to an end. You work because you want to live. In a nutshell, they are aiming for material security and stability in life, probably due to the experience of economic instability during their childhood and youth.

Hence, it is not surprising that the opportunity for a successful career and growth are important job criteria for Gen Xers. Today’s 30 to 50-year-old can be characterised as ambitious, individualistic and ambitious in the working place. Generally, Xers prefer independent work about teamwork and are focused on self-development.

Nevertheless, time is always more important than money for Xers. The concept of “Work Life balance” was invented by the Generation X, which is constantly striving for a high quality of life. Flexibility is hereby key: Flexible hours, location and working division are only some points on the X-list. Members of the generation most likely learned from their parents, who only lived to work, that other things in life are more desirable. Thus they do not want to spend her life just working. This is one of the most important implications for the work field.

In general, members of the Generation X favour employers that offer

  • growth opportunities and consistency
  • a good Work-Life-Balance
  • a clear mission and vision for the future
  • a high degree of flexibility


Consequences for the HR World

Now, after understanding the specific characteristics of Gen Xers as well as their expectations towards employers, let’s examine recruiting and retention programs that can help you attract and retain X-talents:

Training and personal development

The Generation X sees the big picture and would like to plan their career path ahead. A wide training and self-development program can be a determining argument for a company. The offer of internal training but also supporting them to follow external self-development programs, can make an employer more attractive for Xers. But these development programs do not only help to improve an employee’s own abilities but also prepare the entire staff to fulfil bigger and more difficult duties for the company. A Win-Win situation!

Mentoring programmes

Mentoring programmes during the Onboardings of candidates or as a part of the application process offer candidates the possibility to receive a realistic insight into their future career paths. Moreover, mentor programmes offer Xers the possibility to learn from experienced employees and to develop personal relations – positive educational desires as well as the work-life-balance. Furthermore, 42% of the questioned Xers worry about their Cultural Fit with an employer. A mentoring programme can reduce this worry.

High flexibility guarantee

As already mentioned, Generation X highly values flexibility. Approaches, like the remote working, are extremely popular among members of the Genn X. If, however, remote work at all levels is too difficult to integrate, adaptable working hours is another possibility. These allow employees to work sooner or later during the day, enabling them to fulfil private tasks or attend external educational possibilities. Everything for a positive work-life-balance!

Award programs that honour initiative

At every career stage, employees value appreciation and support. Create a program that recognizes employees of every level and stage within the company. For Gen Xers reward programs that are goal- and revenue-driven are typically well received, e.g. bonuses, a company-sponsored trip or recognition at a company event. Financial rewards are welcomed but so is the chance to add recognition to their work profiles and resumes.

This was the insight into the Generation X. During the upcoming weeks we will present the generation Y and Z to you – make sure to visit our Blog! We have summarised the most important results in an Infographic. Please do fill out the form to start the free download.

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