Recruiting Generation X

It’s no secret the war for talent has reached new heights of competition as companies in all industries and phases of growth vie for the attention of Millennials as well as experienced professionals.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed taking a holistic approach to recruiting and retention that not only considers Millennials but looks across the entire workforce spectrum to ensure companies are implementing programs and benefits that will appeal to all employees at every phase of their careers. After all, what an empty-nester will consider critical in a career opportunity is not the same as what a mid-level manager with two young kids will find important.

In Part 2, I focus on the mid-career phase and an older demographic, Generation X, and what you should you be considering to attract and retain this group.

How to Recruit Gen X

What is Generation X?

Gen X is commonly defined as “the generation born after the Western Post-World War II baby boom,” roughly the early 1960s to the early 1980s. A study by EY found that members of Gen X possess traits like “adaptability, problem-solving, collaboration and effective management.” The same study found that Gen Xers ranked workplace flexibility as the most important “perk” and are more likely to walk away from job opportunities where flexibility is not part of the equation.

With this in mind, Gen X favors companies that:

1. Offer growth opportunities and consistency. This group values a sense of security within their roles, within the organization and on their career paths. At this stage in their careers, Gen Xers want to see the big picture – how they can contribute in their current role, what lies ahead and how this fits into the company’s business strategy. This also includes training opportunities that will assist with their current and future roles.

2. Support work-life balance. By offering flexibility, companies can offer Gen X employees the ability to balance their work and family life. This might include flexible work schedules, and the option to work remotely. Employees at this stage of life require the ability to balance multiple personal and professional priorities to make things work.

3. Have a clear mission and values statement. Some companies might develop life-saving products while others develop software to solve business challenges. Regardless of your industry, all companies need to consider how they add value to the marketplace, to their employees and to the community at large. Consider the WHY of what you do. Bring that message forth in your marketing and branding efforts, in your conversations with candidates, and across your company. In doing so, potential employees will likely relate to your mission, especially when it resembles their own life goals and reflects their needs as individuals.

4. Don’t fear change. Every organization has to adapt to changing market conditions and industry drivers. With today’s keen competition for increased market share and talent, no company can afford to maintain the status quo when change is clearly necessary. Employees look to senior leadership to respond to these shifting conditions and adjust accordingly. There’s no room for the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality in the current business environment.

Recruiting and retaining talented Gen Xers

Now that we understand what’s important to Gen X as they consider employment opportunities, let’s examine recruiting and retention programs that can help you attract and retain this group.

1. Training and development. From internal training on key skills and competencies to education reimbursement benefits, there are many considerations. The value of these programs is two-fold. First, you are helping employees develop the skillsets they need today to perform their jobs. Second, robust training opportunities will prepare teams for higher level roles beyond their current responsibilities.

Because Gen X wants to see the big picture and map out their career path, a broad training and development program can be a critical selling point for your company as you seek to attract and retain great talent.

2. Mentoring programs. These can be informal relationships or highly developed programs around mentorship. Gen X can really benefit from these opportunities, both as mentors and as mentees. For those who seek executive leadership roles, having a great mentor can be a huge opportunity for professional development. For others, being able to mentor younger employees can be a richly rewarding endeavor and set great examples of leadership.

Mentoring programs provide employees and potential employees a window into their future career paths. For many, these relationships endure for years and are extremely valuable personally and professionally.

3. Strong benefits package that considers flexibility. Great benefits cannot be underestimated in the overall evaluation of a company’s investment in its employees. While quality healthcare and 401K matches might be considered table stakes, many Gen Xers are at a stage in life where these benefits must still be carefully evaluated. 

Flexibility is also critical to this generation of workers. While remote options are great for some companies, others might be constrained. My recommendation is to be flexible. For example, if remote work is too difficult to offer at every level, consider flexible work schedules that allow employees to work earlier in the day to meet family obligations or to pursue external educational opportunities.

4. Award programs that recognize initiative. At every career stage, employees appreciate recognition. Come up with an awards program that appeals to employees at various levels and stages in the organization. For younger employees, this could mean recognition via a gift card or public acknowledgement for a great idea or a successful project.

For Gen X employees, reward programs that are goal- and revenue-driven are typically well received. Examples include “accelerators” and “carrots,” bonuses, a company-sponsored trip or recognition at a company event. For Gen Xers, financial reward is welcome but so is the chance to add recognition to their work profiles and resumes.

5. Formal development of career paths. At this stage in their careers, Gen Xers have a good idea what they want to do for the short and long term. This group wants to see how things work, asking questions like:

  • How can I grow in the next one to two years?
  • What are the specific steps I need to take to get me where I want to go?

By helping your Gen X workforce map out the right steps and then supporting them in getting there, you will foster a sense of growth and stability.

In summary

Overall, Generation X is right in the thick of their careers. At the same time, they often have considerable responsibility, both personally and professionally. By supporting them on both fronts, your company can continue to attract and retain great talent.

Do you have questions or would you like to chat about these strategies? Please contact me directly at jsegalla@eliassen.com and visit us on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.