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As the economy remains resilient, companies are in a battle not only to hire capable talent, but also to retain the workers that are assets to the organization. Much has been written about the impact of the Baby Boomers and Millennials in the workplace. However, what about the smaller Generation X cohort that is sometimes the forgotten middle child of the generations? While they may be outnumbered by the Millennials and Boomers, their influence has shaped US companies during years of technological advancement and corporate change. What are the characteristics of Gen X, and what do they want from their employer?
The Gen X group born between 1965-1980 was often referred to as latchkey kids. This term was used because a number of them came home alone after school because both parents worked. This fostered a sense of self discipline and autonomy. These individuals had to self-manage their own activities and make decisions based on judgment in the absence of an adult. Gen X learned not to depend on others for constant direction; they created their own outcomes.
Gen Xers childhood predated the internet, personal home computers, and cell phones. They had to learn evolving technology as well as embrace and master it to be successful in corporate America. From the generation that used the first cordless home phone, to commanding the world of work on a smartphone, their actions illustrate the ability to adapt, pivot, and embrace change.
This cohort has experienced two Gulf Wars, dot com bust, 9/11 tragedy, The Great Recession, and COVID. All of these events came with a great loss of jobs and retraction of the economy. Gen Xers have managed to navigate some of the most unprecedented events in history that impacted careers and livelihoods. Their resourcefulness helped them thrive and develop the expertise needed to stay relevant in the workforce in the midst of those events.
Growth and Development
Invest in Gen X workers continued growth and development. Whether it be formal classroom leadership training, conferences and seminars, or online courses, help them enhance their skill set. They already have a wealth of business acumen, so modernizing their tool kit benefits them and improves results for the organization. Most of Gen X has been working for decades, and any job can become repetitive and monotonous if skill sets become stagnant. Create a culture of learning and design training programs that address the needs of mid-career professionals.
New Projects & Meaningful Work
Invite them to lead new company projects and initiatives. In addition, consider offering Gen Xers a different role outside of their comfort zone that teaches them a new talent. They likely have a distinguished track record of tackling new assignments, so keep them energized with new leadership responsibilities. Evaluate your process for promotions. Is it based on performance data? Many in this group want to achieve the next level of success within a company. Engage in dialogue and determine what is important to them in their career trajectory.
Some Gen Xers want enhanced flexibility to care for children, parents, or pursue outside interests. Flexibility desires may reach beyond the ability to work from home periodically. Moreover, some may want to take on a part time role or become an independent contractor supporting their current team. Some workers may simply want more vacation days. One size does not fit all when it comes to flexibility, and people have different motivators – ask them.
Every organization is engaged in succession planning as the life line for business continuity. Gen X is an irreplaceable asset of industry knowledge and expertise. Many want to mentor, teach, and help the next generation succeed in their careers. They have a command of workplace dynamics and want to impart their skills and coach new leaders to excel in the organization.
The Generation X Influence
As pivotal members of corporate work teams, Gen X is 53 million strong in the US labor force. This group is often described as autonomous but driven to make a difference and have an impact. By using different methods to engage Gen X, we can align to their values and retain them for decades.
A third of millennials have health conditions that reduce their quality of life and life expectancy, according to a new study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index (BCBS Health Index). The report found that millennials had substantially higher diagnoses for eight of the top 10 health conditions than Generation X, and based on their current health status, millennials are more likely to be less healthy when they’re older, compared to Gen Xers. These findings are based off of a study of millennials who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 and Gen Xers who were 34 to 36 in 2014.
The biggest health differences between the two generations was the higher impact of physical conditions driven by increased cardiovascular and endocrine conditions, including diabetes.
A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) survey found that 83% of millennials consider themselves in good or excellent health, and that 68% of millennials have a primary care physician, compared to 91% of Generation X, which is an important factor in preventative care.
“Based on these findings, we’re seeing that millennials are not seeking preventative care and it’s not only having an effect on their immediate health, but will significantly impact their long-term health as well,” said Vincent Nelson, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs for BCBSA. “With millennials on track to become the largest generation in the near future, it’s critical that they’re taking their health maintenance seriously. Our plan is to address this issue now to ensure millennials, and all Americans, take a proactive role in maintaining their health and wellbeing.”
The Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report series, “The Health of Millennials,” examined the BCBS Health Index, a database of de-identified medical claims from more than 41 million commercially insured members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies. The findings revealed overall health begins to decline at the age of 27.
Additional findings from the study are:
To identify key drivers of millennial health and how to improve it, BCBS companies will host Millennial Health Listening Sessions across the country. Through these workshops, BCBS companies will hear from millennials, leading health care experts, employers and digital leaders on how to improve the health of millennials. Independence Blue Cross will kick-start the listening sessions by hosting the first one on April 25 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A millennial is someone who was born between 1981 and 1996, and there are nearly 73 million millennials in the U.S. right now – the second largest generation among commercially insured Americans. Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980.
This is the 26th study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series. For more information, visit https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america.