How to Retain Gen X Employees and Why You Want To

How to Retain Gen X Employees

Just about every recent article about managing employees is focused on the Millennials. It’s true that demographic is rapidly becoming the majority of the workforce, but if you’re putting all your focus on Millennial workers, you could be shortchanging your business: A new survey reports that Generation X workers are actually the most committed and engaged at work.

Why Gen X Employees are So Valuable

Members of Generation X are in the prime of their work lives, so perhaps it’s no wonder that they are highly invested in their jobs. More than half (52 percent) of executives in the survey by Korn Ferry’s Futurestep division believe Gen X workers are the most engaged generation, compared to 23 percent who believe Baby Boomers and Millennials are the most engaged workers.

Unlike Baby Boomers, who are approaching retirement age, or Millennials, who are just getting their footing in the workforce and more likely to change jobs, Gen X employees combine the best of both worlds: the benefit of experience and know-how, with many productive years in the workforce still ahead. It’s easy to see why they’re highly desirable as employees.

What Motivates Gen X Employees

Above all else, Generation X employees want to feel like their work matters. When asked what is most important to them at work, 39 percent cite “the ability to make a difference in the organization.” In contrast, job stability (16 percent) and income (8 are far less important. In fact, recognition for their work (15 percent), development opportunities (15 percent) and promotion opportunities (7 percent) are way down the scale, too. For Gen X, it’s all about what they can do for your business.

Well, maybe not all. Nearly half (48 percent) of survey respondents say pay/bonuses are the benefit that matters most to Gen X, followed by paid time off (25 percent) and retirement plans (19 percent). In addition, about one-fourth (24 percent) say the desire for financial stability motivates Gen X to stay in a job.

However, overall, what matters most to this generation isn’t financial. Asked what makes Gen X employees choose one company over another, 48 percent say it’s the “ability to make an impact on the business,” and 31 percent cite “belief in the reputation and vision of the [business].” What makes Gen Xers stay in a job? “A sense of pride in their work” topped the list at 41 percent.

How to Retain Gen X Employees

How can you keep your Gen X employees happy and loyal? Here are some takeaways:

  • Provide competitive pay. Although money isn’t the biggest motivator for these workers, it’s definitely a factor, especially considering their stage in life, with responsibilities such as homeownership, parenthood and even children entering college. In addition to wages, bonuses can be a great way to inspire Gen X workers without committing to a permanent salary increase. Tie pay to the results they get for your business, and Gen X will be highly motivated.
  • Be a leader. Your business needs a strong vision and a good reputation to attract Gen X workers and keep them on board. Promote your business’s mission and vision as part of your marketing. Since Gen X workers want to make a difference, a company that makes a difference in its industry, community or the world at large will have an edge in appealing to them.
  • Don’t micromanage. Gen X workers want to make an impact on your business, and they can’t do that if you don’t trust them to take the lead. Continually challenge them with new opportunities. Set goals, but let them decide how exactly to reach those goals. Put them in charge of new projects or training Millennials. Not only will they be more satisfied with their jobs, but you’ll also gain the benefit of new leadership that can help you grow your business.

Gen X Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.