Every generation contributes distinct strengths in the workplace. Having navigated various business cycles and organizational changes, Baby Boomers are often valued for their deep knowledge and experience. Generation Zs stand out for their tech-savviness and innovative approaches, having grown up in a digital world. Gen Xers and Millennials bridge these generational gaps, combining a mix of traditional work ethics and adaptability to new technologies.
Knowing the desired benefits of each generation can improve job satisfaction and engagement across boards. In this article, we’ll focus a little more on Gen X, helping you understand what benefits you can provide to make them more satisfied, engaged, and fulfilled at their Jobs.
A Closer Look at Generation X
Generation X, Gen X, or Gen Xers are individuals born between 1965 and 1980 and are currently navigating what’s known as the “sandwich” phase of life. They are juggling responsibilities for their aging parents, school-aged children, and their own health and careers.
What Makes Gen X Unique?
Culturally, Gen Xers came of age during a transformative era marked by significant technological advancements. They were the first to witness the rise of personal computers, video games, and the internet. Their cultural references include distinctive music genres like grunge and hip-hop, as well as iconic movies and TV shows. This generation navigated the complexities of a changing world, adapting to new technologies and alternative lifestyles.
A defining aspect of Gen X’s upbringing was the phenomenon of “latchkey kids.” Many Gen Xers experienced coming home to empty houses as both parents were likely working, nurturing a sense of independence and resourcefulness. This independence may have contributed to the generation’s reputation for skepticism and cynicism, contrasting the idealism of the preceding Baby Boomers. Economically, Gen X faced challenges such as the downturn of the early 1980s and fluctuations in the job market during their entry into the workforce, giving them a wealth of information.
The Skills and Strengths of Gen X
Generation X brings several unique strengths to the workplace, shaped by their life experiences and the era they grew up in. These strengths include:
Gen Xers have lived through numerous economic, technological, and social changes, making them highly adaptable to new situations and challenges.
2. Technological Competence
While not digital natives like Millennials or Gen Z, Gen X has a solid understanding of technology. They witnessed the dawn of the digital age and are comfortable with both old and new technologies.
Known for their self-reliance, Gen X employees often excel in working autonomously. They are resourceful problem-solvers who can work effectively without constant supervision.
4. Strong Work Ethic
Gen Xers generally exhibit a commitment to getting the job done. When at work, they are focused and dedicated.
5. Effective Communication Skills
Having grown up before the prevalence of digital communication, Gen Xers are often adept at written and verbal communication. They are comfortable with face-to-face interactions as well as digital communication platforms.
6. Bridge Between Generations
Gen Xers are in a unique position to understand and mediate between the older Baby Boomers and younger Millennials and Gen Z in the workplace. Their ability to relate to traditional and modern perspectives makes them valuable for team dynamics and leadership.
7. Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills
Growing up in a time of changing norms and values, Gen Xers tend to be independent thinkers with strong analytical skills. They often approach problems with a critical and questioning mindset.
8. Loyalty and Stability
While they value work-life balance, Gen X are often very loyal to their employers, particularly if they feel valued and see development opportunities. This loyalty can translate into long-term stability for employers.
What Benefits Does Generation X Value in the Workplace?
Recognizing the unique challenges that come with Generation X, here are tailored benefits you can offer to meet their expectations:
1. Work-Life Balance
Having likely experienced the disadvantages of the baby boomers’ long working hours, Gen Xers tend to prioritize a good work-life balance. This generation has learned to prioritize mental health and the need to avoid burnout, often juggling complex caring responsibilities. As a result, they value flexibility in their working arrangements, including the opportunity for remote work and adaptable schedules, which can help them manage their dual roles as caregivers for their children and parents.
2. Flexible Work Arrangements
Gen X employees highly value flexible working arrangements. This includes shifting working hours to better suit personal commitments and potentially working fewer days per week. Such flexibility aids working parents in managing childcare costs and allows those caring for elderly relatives to balance work with their caregiving responsibilities better. Working from home offers similar advantages, allowing them to attend to their personal commitments while still fulfilling their professional duties.
3. Recognition of Experience
Gen X have been in the workforce for around 20 years, bringing a wealth of experience across various industries and roles. They value autonomy and dislike being micromanaged. Alex Greenwood, Public Relations Consultant and Gen Xer, cited the opinions of another Gen Xer, Martha, on LinkedIn.¹ Martha, a marketing professional who had a Millennial supervisor, says:
“I am a professional; I’ve won numerous awards for my work, and my evaluations praised my hard work and creativity, but once my new boss came on board, forget it. I have rarely been treated so callously in my life.”
As an employer or manager, you can engage Gen X professionals by respecting their expertise, allowing them the freedom to manage their workloads, and offering constructive feedback when necessary. This approach taps into their knowledge while respecting their need for independence.
4. Career Growth Opportunities
Despite their extensive work experience, Gen Xers still value opportunities for career growth. With possibly another ten to twenty years before retirement, they look for roles that allow them to develop their skills further and take on new challenges. You can use performance reviews, individual discussions, and skills training to align their aspirations with available opportunities by offering them roles that match their skills and interests.
5. Workplace Relationships
Good workplace relationships are crucial for Gen X employees. They act as a bridge between different generations in the workplace, understanding the values of baby boomers while sharing aspirations with Gen Zs. You can foster good relationships through open communication, encouraging a culture of sharing ideas and team collaboration.
6. Feedback Opportunities
Gen Xers value clear and specific feedback. Regular opportunities for feedback, outside of annual reviews, can boost their morale and provide learning opportunities. Employers should be detailed in their praise and criticisms, offering constructive suggestions for improvement.
7. Targeted Benefits
Gen X professionals seek benefits that reflect their stage in life, such as retirement planning, caretaker benefits, and medical insurance. As they may be supporting a family while preparing for retirement, benefits like life insurance and employer retirement contributions are particularly appealing.
Medical insurance is critical, as it provides quick access to medical treatment and mental well-being support. Financial protection through critical illness or income protection insurance is also important, ensuring their family’s quality of life is maintained even in their absence.
Companies like Adobe have introduced such benefits, showing they care about the well-being of their employees.² These include eldercare and university admissions benefits for their employees’ kids. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, customized benefits designed according to an employee’s needs can positively influence retention and performance.³
The Broader Picture: Looking at What Other Generations Need
Generational differences mean unique strengths and perspectives, bringing differences in desired benefits because each generation grew in different eras.
A study by LIMRA and Ernst & Young shows that while most generations anticipate employers offering health insurance, baby boomers often value these offerings the most, with 79 percent expecting their employers to provide medical insurance.⁴
On the other hand, Millennials tend to prioritize meaningful work and a sense of purpose, including benefits like mental health treatment, physical wellness benefits, tuition, and student loan assistance.
Being the newest workforce, they often value diversity and social responsibility. They also prefer digital interactions, especially mobile app-based benefits management.
According to the same LIMRA and Ernst & Young survey, approximately 60 percent of Gen Z employees and 48 percent of Millennials favor accessing their benefits information through mobile apps. In comparison, less than a quarter of Baby Boomers share this preference.
Understanding and catering to the specific needs of each generation in the workforce is crucial to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment, ensuring a more holistic approach to employee satisfaction and retention. This strategic alignment of benefits helps support individual employees, strengthening the overall health and productivity of the organization.
UNLOCK YOUR WORKFORCE’S FULL POTENTIAL WITH FOCUS PEOPLE
At Focus People, we understand that a satisfied and engaged workforce is the key to a thriving business. We specialize in helping companies like yours understand and implement benefits that resonate with every generation in your team, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. Let Focus People be your guide in navigating the complexities of today’s multigenerational workforce.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you build a more inclusive, productive, and harmonious work environment.
1. Greenwood, Alex. “Gen X Vs. Millennial: Bridging the Generational Gap in the Workplace.” LinkedIn, 16 Oct. 2023, www.linkedin.com/gen-x-vs-millennial-bridging-generational-gap-alex-greenwood.
2. “Here to Help.” Adobe, benefits.adobe.com/us/here-to-help. 1 Dec. 2023
3. Miller, Stephen. “Employees Are More Likely to Stay If They Like Their Health Plan.” SHRM, 14 Feb. 2018, www.shrm.org/health-benefits-foster-retention.
4. “New Study Reveals Generational Differences in Workplace Benefits Priorities.” LIMRA, 31 Jul. 2023, www.limra.com/new-study-reveals-generational-differences-in-workplace-benefits-priorities.