Generation X have an age range between their early 40s and late 50s, so they've been in the workplace for over 20 years and may still be a long way from retirement. However, Generation X is potentially the forgotten generation when it comes to job opportunities. Job seekers over 50 are more likely to remain unemployed for over a year, suggesting employers aren't valuing their skills or experience.
Here are a few of the benefits of recruiting Generation X employees.
They can communicate openly with other generations
Generation X has a foot in both camps when communicating with other generations. Baby boomer parents raised them, so they understand older generations well. Gen Xers also have a lot in common with the Millennial generation and Generation Z. Whilst they aren't digital natives in the way that Generation Z is, they're much more tech-savvy than baby boomers who started their working lives in a more analogue world.
This means that Generation X can communicate openly with both older and younger generations and act as a conduit between the two. They understand each generation's perspective, potentially making Gen Xers great managers as they can facilitate open and honest communication.
They're good at developing new skills
Generation X is the first generation to work with personal computers and to experience increased use of technology in the workplace. They've had to develop new skills and adapt to new working methods.
Of course, Gen Xers aren't just used to adapting to new technology; they're often the people who developed it in the first place. Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Google creators Sergey Brin and Larry Page are all Gen Xers.
This means Generation X is better placed than previous generations to adapt to different working methods. Gen Xer's communication skills also allow them to be effective change managers when necessary.
Gen Xers have excellent problem-solving skills
Business growth often means working collaboratively to solve problems and find new approaches to business development.
Generation X has problem-solving skills in abundance, often because they were the first generation to have two working parents, so they had to be more independent and resourceful at an early age.
In a recent survey, Gen X respondents described themselves as having a greater work ethic than older generations and their Generation Z colleagues. They also considered that the main attributes they brought to the workplace were their communication skills, problem-solving and analytical and logical thinking. In short, all skills that employers value.
We've seen some benefits that a Generation X employee can bring to your business. Understanding what they value allows you to attract and engage with Generation X employees to bring their skills to your company.
1. Work-life balance
A good work-life balance is increasingly important to both Generation X and Generation Z employees. Gen Xers are more likely to have had two working parents and may have experienced first-hand the disadvantages of the baby boomers' long working hours. Whilst Generation X has a good work ethic, they also understand the importance of their home life and time away from work.
Gen Xers have also learned to prioritise their mental health and the need to avoid burnout. They're more likely to have complex caring responsibilities than previous generations. Women in the UK workforce are waiting longer to have children. We're also an ageing population, creating a sandwich generation of workers who need to look after elderly parents while they still have children at home.
Flexible working and working from home
Flexible working can benefit employees in every generation, allowing them to shift their working hours to avoid commuting in the rush hour or condensing their hours to work four days instead of five.
Employees with caring responsibilities outside of work can improve their work-life balance with flexible working. For example, working parents can save money on childcare costs by coming into the office after the school run. Employees caring for older relatives can also arrange their work around taking an elderly parent to a medical appointment or spending time with them during the day.
Working from home can offer similar benefits, allowing staff the flexibility to attend to their caring commitments during the working day.
Good quality workplace support can allow your employees to improve their work-life balance and avoid burnout. You may have already considered how much time your employees need to spend in the office instead of working from home and developed a flexible working policy. It's worth looking at the needs of employees with caring responsibilities to assess whether your current policies meet their needs.
An employee assistance program (EAP) can also offer valuable support. Programs typically provide counselling or telephone helplines that allow employees to discuss their concerns and get practical help. These can help them to improve their work-life balance and avoid burnout. You can use EAP as a standalone service, or they're also available as part of some corporate health insurance policies.
2. Value their experience
Your Generation X employees have been in the workforce for around 20 years or more. Even if they've moved between different industries in that time, they've likely seen a wide variety of changes and challenges, from conflicts in interpersonal relationships to business restructuring. Even if the Gen Xers in your team aren't currently in leadership roles, they can offer insights to support those who are.
Equally, Generation Xers don't need spoon-feeding. They value their autonomy and will quickly start looking for a new job role if they feel they're being micro-managed. The best approach with Generation X is to ensure they know the parameters and intended outcomes of the task they're working on. Then, leave them to manage their time and workload, offering constructive feedback when necessary.
3. Career growth
Gen Xers have a couple of decades of work experience and have likely already climbed the career ladder to some extent. However, they still value opportunities for career growth. They could still be another ten to twenty years away from retirement, especially as the state pension age rises.
You may already offer information on development opportunities and career pathways as part of your onboarding process. However, using your employee review process is vital to allow Gen Xers to discuss their goals and aspirations. You may have a clear idea of where you feel their skills may be most helpful and what that looks like in terms of career progression. However, Generation X values autonomy and may have a different view.
Considering each Generation X employee's attributes is also essential. They may have excellent communication skills, making them the perfect fit for a supervisory or management role. However, they might prefer to be able to take on more responsibility for a specific project role that doesn't involve coordinating communication between different generations.
4. Meaningful work
Generation Z and the Millennial generation are well known for valuing work that fits well with their personal values. However, it's also an important consideration for Generation X. Whilst Gen Xers value job security, they're still willing to change jobs for a better opportunity elsewhere.
The baby boomer generation is more likely to consider retirement. However, Generation X may also consider leaving their jobs because they're financially secure. While the state pension age is currently 66, Gen Xers in their late 50s may have sufficient resources to cover their retirement.
However, if they feel valued by their current employer and have engaging and stimulating work, they're much more likely to remain employed. Boredom can be a challenge for retired people, so they may want to improve their work-life balance by reducing their working hours rather than leaving altogether.
5. Offer opportunities to build workplace relationships
Good workplace relationships offer a variety of benefits. They're great for employee retention, engagement and individual employee's mental health.
Good interpersonal relationships help employees from different generations avoid loneliness and improve their mental and physical health. From a business perspective, a team that gets on well is typically more productive as they can communicate well and share ideas.
Generation X employees can act as a conduit between other generations as they understand baby boomers' values and share some of the same goals and aspirations as Generation Z.
Ways to build good workplace relationships
Open communication is essential in good relationships. Creating a culture where your team can share their ideas and give constructive feedback on any issues promotes positive relationships. Encourage managers to have an open door policy to listen to employees' ideas. Generation X employees often have new and innovative ideas. Listening to them can offer business benefits and help Gen Xers to feel valued.
You can enable employees from different parts of the business to meet and get to know each other by arranging team events, from a workplace lunch to a company summer social — Generation X values face-to-face meetings. A lunchtime walk and talk allows more informal conversations and also benefits well-being.
6. Create opportunities for feedback
You likely already have an employee review process that allows you to provide honest feedback on an employee's performance. However, opportunities for feedback don't have to be limited to the annual review.
Negative feedback can be worthwhile if it's constructive and allows problems to be dealt with quickly. Positive comments are just as essential and are great for employee morale. This can be as simple as complimenting an employee on a piece of work or arranging a team social at the end of a project.
Generation X values clear and accurate feedback, so be specific. Detailed praise is much more likely to make them feel valued than a generic 'well done'. The same goes for criticism; Gen Xers might not enjoy it, but they'll see it as a learning opportunity if you offer suggestions for a different approach next time.
Team initiatives can also be a great way to offer praise. You can set up an online form for employees to thank their colleagues and pass the messages on or display them in the office. Many NHS trusts provide a similar service for patients to say thank you to medical staff, so you may want to offer this option to clients.
7. Offer the right benefits
A high-quality employee benefits package can help your business to attract the best talent from across the generations. However, some benefits are particularly valuable to Generation X. They're likely looking ahead towards retirement while still having a family to support. Older Gen Xers may also start to face health issues. The employee benefits you offer can help support them with all these concerns.
As we age, we can all face health issues, so offering appropriate support can help you attract and retain Generation X employees. Adults over 50 are more likely to be on an NHS waiting list, and poor mental and physical health also played a role in whether adults returned to work after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health insurance offers quick access to private medical treatment, allowing your employees to return to work quickly instead of waiting for NHS treatment. Policies also include other types of support, including mental health helplines and 24/7 virtual GP appointments that allow staff to seek advice at a convenient time.
Generation X employees will likely have a family to support. Life insurance provides death-in-service benefits that give their loved ones a lump sum payment if they die while employed with you. Life insurance pays out as long as they're still an employee. The death doesn't have to happen at work or be related to their job.
This gives your Gen X workers peace of mind, knowing their family will be taken care of should the worst happen.
Every employer in the UK must offer a workplace pension, and your contributions can significantly benefit your Generation X employees. Generation X workers are facing a potential pension crisis, as many Gen Xers have significant gaps in their pension contributions or need to pay more into their private pensions to cover their needs in retirement adequately.
Employers' pension contributions are tax-deductible, so it's worth seeking professional advice to assess whether you can increase your current contributions.
Life insurance provides a lump sum if an employee dies. However, it won't cover employees' monthly outgoings if they're away from work because of ill health. Your sickness absence policy may already offer full pay for some absences. However, critical illness or income protection cover provides an additional safety net.
Critical illness insurance provides a lump sum if an employee is diagnosed with a serious illness named in the policy.
Income protection insurance pays a regular monthly income until an employee returns to work or retires, whichever is sooner.
Both policies can reassure Gen Xers that their monthly bills will be covered so they can maintain their family's quality of life until they can return to work.
Having the right insurance policies allows your business to offer valuable employee benefits that will help you attract employees from Generation X and beyond. At Globacare, we're regulated insurance brokers who provide advice tailored to your business to help you find the right coverage and give you excellent value for money.
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Frequently asked questions
What do Generation X employees value in the workplace?
Generation X employees value excellent pay and benefits and the opportunity to create a work-life balance that allows them to enjoy life and care for their children and older relatives. They're experienced employees and appreciate an employer who values that experience, gives clear feedback and allows them to share ideas and work independently while also offering opportunities for career development. Gen Xers also appreciate meaningful work and fulfilling workplace relationships.
What employee benefits will attract Generation X workers?
Gen Xers appreciate opportunities for flexible working and employee benefits that help them look after their health and care for their family. Health insurance, life insurance, critical illness and income protection insurance and a generous pension scheme can all be valuable elements in your employee benefits package.