Published On: Thu, Sep 22nd, 2011

Generation X: Overlooked and Hugely Important

A recent study by the Center for Work-Life Policy has found that despite being the smallest generation (46 million), Generation X just might be “the most critical generation of all” for employers.

Quite commonly nicknamed the “slacker generation”, Gen Xers, aged 33 to 46, are at the prime of their lives and careers, while stepping into vital leadership roles and starting families.

The study, entitled, “The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46- Year-Old Generation” reveals that as a result of challenges and circumstances out of their control, Gen Xers are now taking a different path in life.

Most shockingly, the study found that an exceptionally large number of Gen Xers are choosing not to have children. Tight work schedules (60+ hours a week), career ambition and current economic challenges are all factored into their high level of childlessness, in comparison with other generations.

Key Findings of the study:

  • A surprisingly large proportion of Xers are delaying or even opting out of parenting: 43 percent of Xer women and 32 percent of Xer men do not have children.
  • Among non-parents, 60 percent of women and 36 percent of men feel their personal commitments are perceived as less important than those of colleagues with children.
  • Despite having been nicknamed the “slacker generation,” Generation X enrolled in higher education in record numbers. Over a third of Gen X hold bachelor’s degrees and 11 percent have graduate degrees.
  • Gen X is not only highly ambitious but their ambition is nearly gender neutral: 75 percent of women and 72 percent of men consider themselves ambitious.
  • Thwarted by Boomers who can’t afford to retire and threatened by the prospect of leapfrogging Millennials, 41 percent of Xers are unsatisfied with their current rate of advancement and 49 percent feel stalled in their careers.
  • Debt determines many Xer career choices, with 43 percent of Xers saying that their ability to pay off their student loans is an important factor in their career choices and 74 percent saying the same about credit card debt.
  • The vast majority (91%) of X women and 68 percent of X men are part of a dual-earning couple. More than a third (36%) of Gen X women out-earn their spouses.
  • Women and minorities made up 64 percent of graduates during the Gen X college years. Many Xer minorities are the first in their family to graduate from college: 49 percent for African-Americans and 54 percent for Hispanics, compared to 33 percent of Caucasians.

The bottom line is that the X factor is crucial to the future success of corporations; however corporate programs tend to overlook their needs. Organizations need to understand what motivates the generation in order to sustain, retain, realize and maximize their potential.

Gen Xers may have become accustomed to being overlooked and invisible, but “the X Factor” proves that no company can afford to ignore them now.

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