Preparing the Workplace for Gen-X Commitment

Rousseau (2007), in a preface to his research on retention strategies and Generation X, comments, “By the time I entered the workforce my perspective was much different than that of my baby-boomer parents.  I wanted mutuality.  I wanted respect for my contributions.  I wanted a fair wage.“ (p. 1).  The workplace of today is in no way a mirror image of organizations past, yet this is also not to say that today’s organization is fully prepared to receive the Gen-X workforce either.  To that end, Rousseau (2007) cites that “Seventy percent of [Gen-]X’ers stated they would quit if they thought they could find increased intellectual stimulation elsewhere” (p. 43).  As a result of an exhaustive literature review on the topic of turnover/retention in today’s organizations, the author also concludes ”Generation X, while more dynamic than two retention practices, is fundamentally defined by the values that are associated with the two retention practices described in depth in this paper.  Generation X’ers want work-life balance and meaning” (p. 53).

In recent years, Herzberg’s theory on motivation and McGregor’s theories X and Y were used to examine attitudes and motivational factors that stimulate and increase employee satisfaction leading to increased employee recruitment and retention (Lee, 2007).  Lee (2007) utilized a mixed method approach to couple a phenomenology with a questionnaire, which surveyed members of the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants.  These 16 participants allowed Lee (2007) to come to the conclusion that, not only had recruitment and retention become a cause for concern among accounting professionals, but also that “Organizations will need to be willing to change current methods of recruitment and motivation techniques and consider new ways of attracting and motivating accountants that will entice them to remain with the organization” (p. 133).  The author lists ‘organizational structure’ as one viable option for change since Gen-X workers were found to be more apprehensive to hierarchy as they found it more a hindrance than a benefit.

To continue this avenue of research, the Financial Planning Association published, Serving the Next Generation.  The article, published Q1 2009, was “based on a recent Financial Planning Association survey of 3,022 consumers with over $50,000 in income or investable assets… focuses on the current behaviors, planning needs, and benefits of planning to Generation X” (FPA, 2009, p. 1).  As a primary takeaway from this survey, while Generation X’s areas of stress are more short term, their goals are long term; they need a plan to help them become behaviorally future-focused as opposed to simply thinking long term (FPA, 2009).  This financial reality, as implication for an employment one, is further defended by the supposition that we’ll work for much smaller organizations that outsource everything but the business’s core area of expertise, and more than half of us will eventually become contingent workers, employed part time or as freelancers or consultants (Levit, 2009).  Thus, the conclusion drawn is not one of a pattern of behavior where Generation X is simply a grouping dedicated to freely floating between intellectually stimulating positions, and instead speaks to a grouping of society that faces the realities of the current economic times.  They accept the harsh truth and cynicism that invokes a survival instinct, which mitigates any current inclinations to commit to an organization.

– Justin

Financial Planning Association. (2009). Serving the next generation. Journal of Financial Planning, 22(3), 1-7.

Lee, D. (2007). Recruitment and retention of generation x accountants: An analysis of motivational factors and their influence. Ph.D. dissertation, Capella University, United States — Minnesota.

Levit, A. (2009). The future world of work: A gen xer’s perspective. Futurist, 43(5), 39.

Rousseau, P. (2007). Turnover, retention, and generation x: The workplace relationship. M.A. dissertation, State University of New York Empire State College, United States — New York.


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