How to Train Gen X Employees

If you want to keep Gen X employees engaged at work, remember training and development is the key. Members of Generation X have been frustrated by their career progression — or lack thereof. Having been pummeled by a deep and painful recession, Gen X is waiting for its next big opportunity.

In the years ahead, money will be more of a driver for Generation X than for its Boomer and Gen Y counterparts. More than any other generation, Gen X has borne the brunt of the collapse in the mortgage industry, and many still owe more on their homes than those homes are worth.

Fairness is also important to Gen X. Many Gen Xers feel that the cards have been stacked against them, and they're looking for an opportunity that evens the score — at least financially. (The perception of unfairness is a major disengagement driver.) Other recruitment hooks for this group include technology, benefits (after all, they're the ones now having babies), and development opportunities.

Training is important to Generation X. They're all about development opportunities. When training members of this generation, you'll want to consider the following:

  • Include lots of activities and individual report-backs. As with Boomers, building experiential exercises and activities into training opportunities is important. However, unlike their Boomer predecessors, Gen Xers are still looking to prove themselves and itching to show their stuff.

    It's a good idea to give members of Gen X opportunities to co-lead the training, take the lead on report-backs, and otherwise shine in front of their peers. “Teaching others” is the top way in which people learn; Gen Xers are primed to take the lead in teaching others while boosting their own learning during training events.

  • Have more than one solution to case studies. Now more than ever, Gen X wants to be heard, seen, and given an opportunity to make its own footprint. Pressed between two sizable generations, Gen X has ideas and wants to share them. If you expect Gen Xers to follow suit or go along with the tried and true, you risk disengaging them and losing out on a significant learning opportunity.

    Best-in-class organizations bring together their high potentials (often disproportionately made up of Gen X) and invite them to tackle organizational challenges, explore new markets, or evaluate the business case to expand their product offerings.

  • Align training with the company's mission. Members of Generation X are similar to members of other generations in that their training time can best be leveraged if they see a “line of sight” between the time necessary to train and the relationship of the training with the company's overall mission.

  • Allow participants to provide feedback during the training session. Whereas Boomers are often more comfortable providing feedback after a training event, members of Generation X are more “instant” in their willingness (and desire) to provide feedback on the training they're receiving. Consider it “real-time” quality improvement for your training program.

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