The Problem With Gen X
Free Book Preview: Unstoppable
You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
Along with all the other daunting changes happening in the external environment, one of the most important relates to how you and your business are managing talent.
Generation X and Y (GXY) are the next cohort of managers that will be deciding on the future of your business — how seriously are you taking them?
Let’s start with some basic definitions to help navigate who is who in the corporate zoo.
Baby boomers were born during the post–World War II baby boom and include people who are between 52 and 70 years old in 2016. Boomers tend to be productive contributors to organisations as they are hardworking, team players who are nurturing and essential for others’ development.
The downside is that they aren’t adaptable, collaborative or easily engaged with their corporate brand.
Who is Gen X?
Generation X — roughly defined as anyone born between 1965 and 1980 — has just 46 million members, making it a dark-horse demographic. Compared with other generations, members of Gen X are considered a really productive part of any organisation and strong team players.
Gen X are revenue generators and relationship builders who are very adaptable. They are generally optimistic and fairly easy to work with.
The generation of people born during the 1980s and early 1990s, Generation Y, are the children of baby boomers. Members of Gen Y were viewed as the ‘best’ at being tech savvy and leveraging social media beyond marketing.
Gen Y also outperform other generations at collaboration and adaptability and are more entrepreneurial. Although they are enthusiastic and hardworking, they can also be difficult to work with, entitled and lack experience.
What does this mean for your business?
A younger generation of leaders and managers will need to be developed into roles and positions that help drive your organisation forward and if these things are not top of mind, you might be missing a trick.
The idea that these challenges are only for the HR department is incorrect, because the impact of mismanaged human capital doesn’t even affect HR — it affects the core functioning of a business. This should be a key concern for every senior executive who is focused on the company’s growth.
Here are four areas to consider now if you want to foster your business’s future leaders.
1. The core of your organisation is all wrong
According to the theory of organisational culture by Edgar Schein, the core of your business determines the values, truths and assumptions about the organisation. My experience has been that younger generations are increasingly in tune with the ‘core’ of a business.
This may take shape in the artifacts or rituals performed by the business, but these are ultimately exclusionary and isolating to GXY.
2. Your internal structure does not inspire progression
The ‘inspiring’ story of how a business has become robust and can weather the storm is discouraging to GXY. A ‘robust’ internal structure sounds inflexible and unaccommodating.
Conversations that create an honest sense of the business are important, but what is traditionally attractive about stability and predictability may be seen as rigid and restrictive. Allow for more dynamic teams to operate in playpens, with different rules and a flatter, more attainable organogram.
3. You don’t have a strong enough psychological contract
I left a company because I didn’t buy into its vision. The core of the organisation was wrong for me, which compounded the problem. The psychological contract that comes from buy-in to the vision is really valuable, because it’s often what carries employees through rainy, doubtful days.
If GXY doesn’t buy into the vision of your company, each bad day or missed deadline becomes a nail in a coffin for them, and it’s just a matter of time before they take their skills elsewhere.
4. Lump them all into one bucket
Members of GXY generally don’t even look similar within the same age bracket, let alone life stage, but businesses often treat them like a homogenous group. Life experience, exposure and context sometimes may be a better way of viewing members of GXY. This is untested, but worth exploring because the more customised their experience is with your business, the higher their probability of sticking around.