A slight 48 million Americans, Generation X (1965-1981) is situated between two behemoth generations: 78 million Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and 80 million Generation Ys (1982-1995).
Xers have been outnumbered and overlooked most of their professional lives, firmly seated under the Gray Ceiling and awaiting the retirements of Boomers. Until now, they have been considered too small to make a difference, but that’s all about to change.
Within the next 2-3 years, more Xers will be called upon to lead as the Boomers begin to retire. This shift will make a huge impact on the workforce–perhaps more than any other time in history. In fact, some changes are already beginning to emerge.
Thirty-six percent of Gen X women are out-earning their spouses. The rise of women into positions of power will create a ‘feminization’ of leadership meaning companies are likely to place increasing importance on emotional intelligence, people skills, negotiation, collaboration, and flexibility.
Actually, Generation X has always gravitated away from the command-and-control leadership style of the Boomer generation. Xers were the first to introduce the concept of work-life balance to the workplace and they advocate for less hierarchy, as well as ethical and fair workplace practices.
The rise of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and other emerging markets will ensure the arrival of a more culturally diverse workforce with workers employed around the world. This means knowledge of other languages will become more important.
The new crop of leaders will need to inspire others across geographic and age barriers, be comfortable with uncertainty, as well as be curious, educated, well read, and well traveled.
Generation X is certainly up to the task. Raised amidst sky-rocking divorce rates, corporate downsizing, and experiencing three economic recessions in their young lives, the Xers have experienced more challenge than other generations, and also tend to be more adaptable as a result. They crave opportunities to learn and develop new skills.
You, Inc. is the idea that you are making your own career. Your career isn’t defined by an employer; it’s defined by you and the skills you possess which can be transferred to any organization–maybe even your own.
Generation X introduced the You, Inc. movement. Raised by single parents or two-parent working households, this generation was the first generation of ‘latch-key kids’. As a result, Xers are self-sufficient and independent thinkers.
In work, Xers emphasize personal satisfaction as being the most important. Unlike the Boomer leaders, which focus on corporate progression and monetary reward, Gen X will lead with a focus on nurturing individuals, personal development, autonomy, and work-life balance.
Can you hear the mosquito? It’s buzzing loud and clear.
Unfortunately, most companies are still trying desperately to ignore it. A new report, which drew upon surveys of senior executives across 19 countries for two years, reveals 59% believe organizations are unprepared for the arrival of Gen X to leadership and all the changes that will surely follow.
Employers have been sleeping peacefully, and they are about to have a rude awakening. It is our hope more employers will chose to wake up, embrace the opportunity, and prepare Xers for the awesome responsibility that lies before them.
Either way, the Xers are moving into power and their arrival is going to make a big, noticeable difference. Buzz-buzz!
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