Much has been written about marketing your company as an employer of choice to the Millennial Generation (Americans born after 1980), but my generation -- Generation X (born 1969-1979) -- doesn't get much air time. Ignoring the needs and opinions of this slice of your workforce comes at your peril.

Millennials surpassed Gen X as the largest demographic in the labor pool in 2016; at the end of 2017, 56 million Millennials were in the U.S. workforce, more than the 53 million Generation Xers, according to Pew Research.  (Baby boomers, long the predominant workforce and consumer demographic in this country, number 41 million and represent a quarter of the available workforce.) However, Generation X, now second fiddle in terms of workforce size, contains critical members of the workforce -- experienced, mid- and senior-level hires at the prime of their career.  

Focusing all of your employment branding efforts on reaching Millennials ignores a simple truth: Gen X is the candidate pool that's most likely to generate talent for a company's senior leadership hires, and it's where you'll need to look for specialized talent with specific experience of at least ten to fifteen years. This talent is more impactful, more expensive and much more difficult to find, because the top 25% performers in the Gen X labor pool is always in high demand.  

In short, free snacks at work and discounts on bike sharing programs probably won't get it done. So what's the most important workplace benefit to Gen X?

Family leave.

According to Jen Fisher, Deloitte's U.S. employee well-being leader, members of Gen X are part of what she refers to as "the sandwich generation," or workers who are facing the dual pressures of childcare and elder care, and caring for both young and old simultaneously takes a lot of time. Flexible work arrangements, generous family leave policies, and creative time-off programs are all critical components of a top-shelf benefits package that is increasingly becoming table stakes for recruiting and retaining high-performing GenXers.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the industry association for HR professionals, reports that over 75% of employers now say that caregiving benefits will grow in importance to their companies over the next five years, particularly related to caring for elderly family members. Companies on the forefront of creative family leave policies have a distinct advantage when competing for scarce talent in the 40- to 50-year-old age bracket.

That all sounds good if you're a Fortune 500 company, but what about your small business? While the changes taking place in the family leave practices of large employers is undeniable, the picture is much less clear for small and midsize companies. We're competing for the same talent, but don't have the same resources available to us to launch generous paid leave plans. In fact, offering unpaid leave plans are often out of reach.

If you're optimizing your benefits package to attract a more experienced Gen X worker demographic, implementing these two family-focused benefits can give you a leg up:

Remote work arrangements

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American workers who commute to a physical office spent 52 minutes a day on getting to work. That's five hours a week that could be otherwise directed toward productive time at home or the office. There are countless other psychological benefits associated with eliminating the logistics around getting to and from a physical office location.

Consider allowing your team members to work remote one or more days a week. Or, take it a step further and eliminate the need to travel to the office entirely, whenever possible. You'll get higher productivity, a happier workforce and lower operating costs as benefits. On the downside, you'll have to learn to manage the team differently and work hard to maintain a "one company" culture.

Flexible schedules

Most companies require salaried team members to work five 8-hour days, 40 hours each each. But what about four 10-hour days, or three 13.5 hour days?

If the work gets done, why does it matter? You might find that your team members are more focused on the job because they're intent on keeping this benefit.  You'll score big on the retention front, and your workforce will think long and hard about leaving for less-flexible pastures.

What are you doing to differentiate yourself to the Gen X workforce?

Published on: Jun 1, 2018