With all the discussion of Boomers and Millennials, the generation in between is often forgotten. According to the Pew Research Center, this generation was born between 1961 and 1981. Generation X is smaller than either the Baby Boomer or the Millennial generation, and they occupy a unique place in American society. They were too young to participate in the civil rights or countercultural movements of the sixties but were still affected by them profoundly. They were the first generation that did not have to worry about a draft, and the first raised as “latch-key kids”. They did not grow up on technology or social media, but rapidly adapted to the internet age.
As Baby Boomers retire, more and more Gen X workers are poised to take the lead in business. How can training professionals best serve this generation of employees? Let’s examine the characteristics of Generation X to gain insight into the training methods that would best work for them.
This was the first generation born during, and after, the second wave of feminism when more middle class women chose to continue their careers after having children. This, coupled with the rise in the divorce rate, created a generation filled with children who often had to tend to themselves. These circumstances have resulted in a generation of people who value independence and self-reliance. Generally, the most egregious error when working with Gen X employees is micromanagement. Naturally, this means that self-directed learning is especially popular and effective with Gen X workers. The ability to go at one’s own pace coupled with minimal oversight makes independent training courses perfect for anyone in this generation.
Contrary to their slacker image, people in Generation X have proven to be capable leaders. This generation’s independent streak and oft-touted cynicism mean that they prioritize competency over seniority. President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis) are both Generation X, born in 1961 and 1970 respectively. On the business side, author and Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg (born 1969) and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (born 1964) are both excellent representatives for their generation. How does this translate into training? These employees are often natural leaders, so give them opportunities to hone those skills! Leadership training will be a great investment for any company with Gen X employees. Their prioritization of competency means that they are also open to learning from experts, which means instructor-led training might be a great option.
As we stated in the introduction, Generation X might not have been raised with technology, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t adapted to technology. A report by Nielson found that Gen X is even more connected than Millennials, spending an average of forty more minutes per week on social media networks than the younger generation. Mobile learning and eLearning solutions would be excellent choices for training Gen X staff members.
Most Gen X employees have embraced the ethos of “work to live, but don’t live to work.” They want to succeed at the office, but not if it means missing their child’s piano recital. However, this is more than just a preference. Like many Americans (including a growing number of Millennials), people in Generation X are commonly joining the ranks of the so-called Sandwich Generation: people who take care of elderly parents or loved ones while they are still raising their own children. This means they value convenience: mobile learning, therefore, would be ideal.
Members of Generation X have had to adapt to constant changes over the course of their lifetimes. They began high school using typewriters and graduated college using desktop computers. On a larger scale, this is the generation that witnessed the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror. Such shifts in technology and culture have caused members of Gen X to be highly flexible and adaptable in uncertain circumstances. Naturally, this means that they can thrive in a number of different learning environments and training methods.
Having grown beyond grunge and Reality Bites, Generation X has already begun to take over the C-Suite. Training professionals who have been focused on honing strategies for Millennial employees might feel overwhelmed by the needs of Gen X, but it’s never too late for course correction! This adaptable generation will respond to just about any training program, from eLearning to mobile learning to instructor-led training.