Talent Management: 4 Ways to Motivate Gen X Employees

by robertr

January 3rd, 2013

Dale Carnegie Research has found that employees between the ages of 40 and 49 have the lowest levels of engagement. This is an unfortunate trend considering many middle-aged workers have valuable experience and the institutional history required to excel as leaders within their current companies. If you find that employees within this demographic are struggling to stay motivated, here are some talent management tips to keep them performing at their highest.

Don’t Make Generalizations About a Generation

Gen Y. Gen X. Baby Boomers. Even though these groups represent an approximate age range, members of these groups don’t think or act uniformly. There are some issues, though, that affect all employees –regardless of age. “While I worry about making sweeping generalizations of middle-aged employees, I believe that the risk of burnout and disengagement is a problem affecting all employee groups during the recent recession. I think negative stress and burnout are the biggest challenges that middle-aged employee face in engagement,” says William Rothwell, Professor of Workforce Education and Development Program in the College of Education at the University Park Campus of The Pennsylvania State University. If you see evidence of burnout, talk to your employees about the issues they’re facing, and carefully listen to their answers.

Try Not To Micromanage

If you try to control every action made by those in their 40s and 50s, you can thwart one of their greatest assets –their creativity and ability to work independently. But you don’t have to mince words or tread too lightly (as some experts say you might with the sometimes more coddled Gen Y-ers). “Baby Boomers and Gen X workers do not need to feel like they are the center of the universe, and can handle constructive criticism. They do, however, want to be recognized for what they do, feel appreciated, and be respected,” says Glenn Shepard, author of How to Manage Problems Employees.

Provide Passion Projects

Employees in their forties and fifties have already paid their dues and aren’t content just proving their worth at the office. They want something more –to make their mark in some way. If your employees are thinking bigger, help them do something bigger, advises executive coach Stephanie Somanchi: “Appeal to their need to accomplish something beyond themselves with purpose and contribute to a higher ideal renews motivation and engagement.” For some employees, that might mean leading a new team, or contributing to a pet pro bono cause. Figure out what will re-inspire your middle-aged players and you’ll re-invigorate your entire team.

Bridge The Gap

A common workplace issue is the varying degree of knowledge surrounding new technology, this most frequently occurs between generational groups. This is especially true with emerging technological trends such as social media and the quickly evolving mobile world. But that doesn’t mean Gen X employees can’t get up to speed if given the opportunity, says Michael Carroll, author of Fearless at Work: “For instance, you can send them to conferences and programs that address the emerging global and technological dynamics redefining the face of modern business.” You might also consider starting inner team mentoring to bridge the generation gap. For instance, a younger employee in a sales department can show a middle-aged peer how to use social mediums to draw in new customers, while a more experienced employee might help a greener one practice face-to-face customer interaction.

Try these four tips and hopefully you’ll engage every member of your team fully –no matter what their age.

For Dale Carnegie Talent Management tactics, visit our site to learn more about team and staff development!

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  1. laurie /

    I only see three tips.

    • Alan /

      I believe the 4th tip is Bridge The Gap, but it got bunched into the 3rd tip

  2. Andy /

    So at 41 I’m a middle aged burnout who is befuddled by all the new technology out there. Give us a little credit. We’ve ridden the evolution of computing technology from dumb terminals tied to mainframes all the way to today’s technology, and witnessed firsthand the creation of the internet as a medium for connecting the globe. I think we can figure out Snapchat.

    • Athina /

      Exactly my thoughts Andy!!

  3. Non Idiot /


    • conni /

      more pay for everyone!

  4. Julie Clarity /

    Oh look, someone remembers Gen X!

    And, why do I have low levels of engagement at any employer? Well. A. I’m a latch key kid, used to being abandoned to my own ends by so-called authority figures, and, B. I’ve watched through the years, the removal of job perks like fulltime hours to qualify for healthcare insurance (oh yes, I was told why the hours were set up that way, even at WPS, a healthcare insurance provider!), the removal of pensions (and I’ve had a 401(K) application ignored by a company that told me…no more pensions when I was hired), the removal of sick days…and frankly, a whole bunch of Baby Boomer slackers bitching about their jobs that I would have loved to have. I even told one such fellow, at least you have a permanent job to hate.

    So, am I looking to a corporation for work, next? Um. After what I’ve observed the last five years, with corporations not bothering to give adequate or any raises to anyone but the CEO’s…probably not. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, but if I work for another company, I will be lowering myself to their standards. Because that is what it all comes down to in my book, after a time, I cannot bear to work for a company with lower customer service (including to employee) standards than mine.

    Additionally, I shall not be admired for my five years as a Stay At Home Parent by any company, I shall be expected to explain what I did in addition to my full time duties as Stay At Home Parent because no one understands how a person could possibly want to parent their very own child from age 0-5.