Gen X "The Sandwich Generation" 10 Strategic Hiring and Retention Tips
• In your 30’s-early 40's and feel your career has stalled?

• None of the standard workplace incentives motivate you?

• Looking for a company where you really "fit" in?

• Taken for granted, yet feel squeezed by the Baby Boomers and Generation Y?

Welcome to Generation X! We are a small cohort of 44 million and are the filling in the population pyramid sandwich. We are squeezed by two generations who are double our size: the Baby Boomers before us and Gen Y or Millenials who came after us.

Check out my previous article with info on each of the major American Population Cohorts "Are You A Middle Child? Generation X and Adlerian Birth Order"
For the purposes of this article I will use the following abbreviations Xer's for Generation X, GY for Generation Y and BB for Baby Boomers.

Often there may only be one Gen Xer in a particular department or work-unit. We don't automatically have the same-age, cohort collegiality which BB and GY automatically enjoy. If we have friends, we have had to make efforts to relate to others who are quite different from us. By necessity, we have developed strong interpersonal and communication skills. Is it any wonder we crave inter-personal relations and seek friends wherever we can? Many of our personal friends are either older or younger. We rarely find someone our age.

Many Xers have had a rougher, career path than previous generations. We graduated from college in the early-mid 90’s during a recession. While the Baby Boomers were in their prime, we struggled to get a toe-hold in a very competitive job market. Next, we survived the bust while the BB filled the top management positions. Unlike previous generations, by all indications, the BB generation won’t retire at age 65. Also, Gen Y is graduating from college, they are cheaper hires than us and are continually nipping at our heels. This early exposure to the harshest aspects of the job market, has made us somewhat cynical as well as fiercely independent and in many cases, quite entrepreneurial.

It’s no wonder that many Gen Xers feel like they have been “sold a bill of goods!” By the time Gen X hit the workforce, the cradle to grave employment premise had imploded. The implicit contract between employer and employee never existed for us – like it did for our parents. For us, hard work and loyalty will not be rewarded with security, benefits or a career-long, job. We have been accused of frivolously flitting to new jobs every 3 or so years.We have been in a constant state of turmoil and career flux. Some jobs we took worked out, others were dead-ends which stalled our careers. Like a forgotten, middle child we’ve been taken for granted or left to figure it out on our own. Our parents couldn’t help guide our careers, since all of the rules had changed. As a result, the easy promotions, mentoring and supports BB received, passed us by.

10 Factors for Gen X Hiring and Retention

1. Understand that Gen X has many valid reasons to distrust corporate culture. They have had all of the responsibilities and very few of the perks.

2. HR staff should learn about our values and motivators and incorporate this into the basic fabric of their organization. Gen Xers' needs are very different than the preceding BBs' or subsequent GYs'.

3. We need and continually seek, mutually, supportive work-settings. Companies can help us by focusing on improving collaboration within and between departments. Ask for our input and let us know it's valuable.

4. Create a challenging, varied and intellectually stimulating work culture. This factor is key to both hiring and long-term, retention for Xers'.

5. The hyper-competitive, Yuppie model will smother an Xer and demotivate them.

6. Demonstrate transparency in hiring, retention and promotions. Show what the goals and steps are which will get you to the next level.

7. Acknowledge our pivotal role in the population pyramid. We can bridge the generation-gap and demographic, time-gap between the Boomers and the Gen Yers.

8. Provide training, mentoring and development. Ask us specifically what we need, then implement it.

9. Plan a viable career path for Xers'. Show us that there are opportunities for career progression if they stay with your company

10. Understand our need for work/life balance. Provide: flextime, part-time work and telecommuting.