Career Decisions and Generation X
Here are a few more of the questions that came in during a recent HBR-sponsored webinar — but that we didn’t have time to get to. These are primarily focused on career decisions and interpersonal dynamics in the workplace. I hope you’ll share your own views.
You asked: What do good on-ramps for X’ers look like?
Good on-ramps for X’ers should build capital and offer choice. That capital comes in three forms: social, emotional, and intellectual — and all three are important components of successful on-ramps.
Social capital is about relationships — helping people who’ve taken time off retain their connections.
Emotional capital is about feeling committed to the organization — creating touch points that reflect the values that drew the individual to the company in the first place.
Intellectual capital is about knowledge — keeping individuals up to date on the expertise they’ll need to do the job well once they return.
X’ers particularly value choice. Companies should offer options for work arrangements, designed to allow talented X’ers to choose the approach that will work for them. For more on the importance of on-ramps, see Carolyn Buck Luce’s recent post.
You asked: Does the longer life expectancy explain why people are retiring from two and three jobs?
To some extent, yes. However, I think other factors, such as the increase in the labor market’s instability over the past several decades, have had a more significant influence. After watching several decades of layoffs, X’ers today tend to be very wary of putting all their eggs in one corporate basket. They don’t like to be pigeonholed, or pushed out on a limb of specialization, knowing the inherent danger that, in a fit of whimsy, the corporation will saw the branches off behind them during the next restructuring. In our research, they are the generation most likely to fear being laid off and to feel at a dead end in their corporate careers. One of their highest priorities is keeping their options open and their skills diverse — to be as self-reliant as possible.
You asked: When your company has offices in many locations, and the next higher position is somewhere other than where you are now, how do you minimize the severing of ties?
The approaches for staying in touch are fairly straightforward, although new technologies like Facebook and LinkedIn certainly make that easier than ever before. The more important question for companies to wrestle with is whether that next higher position has to be based in a new location. Many progressive firms are beginning to look at the benefits and tradeoffs of having a leadership team that is geographically dispersed. Again, with new technologies, it’s becoming more possible for people to live near their “tribe” and work anywhere, any time.
You asked: How should an X’er communicate the need for better work-life balance in a way that an employer can accept and respond to with a positive change? Are X’ers deciding not to have children and, if so, why?
X’ers are having children, although the birth rates are lower than they were several decades ago. The key to communicating any request is to address its implications for the company right up front, and of course, if possible, in a positive way. I strongly recommend using ROI language (and I talk about how to do that in the book I wrote for Gen Y: Plugged In). Don’t sugarcoat the analysis; consider all the pros and cons for the organization of the change you’re requesting; and identify appropriate remedial actions.
If you’d like to listen to a recording of the webinar, or see slides from the presentation, go here.
Original post here, by Tammy Erickson @ Harvard Business Publishing