Three ways to increase engagement for GenX employees

As I wrote in a previous post, increasing employee engagement continues to be something of a holy grail for most organizations. And it’s no wonder—companies with high employee engagement levels outperform those with lower engagement in productivity, sales and profitability.

generation-xLike most things related to Generation X, engagement rates among GenX workers remain hopelessly stuck in the middle between Baby Boomers (most engaged) and Millennials (least engaged). With Generation X, organizational leaders have an opportunity to really move the needle. Here are three ways to increase engagement among your Generation X employees:


Want to really engage employees? Leave them alone. Though it sounds like a contradiction, giving employees control over their work is a huge motivator. In a study by Cornell University, businesses that gave employees autonomy experienced four times the growth with just one-third the turnover as businesses using command and control management.

This is something that pragmatic, self-sufficient GenX-ers can really respond to. Most GenX-ers are now mid-career and have enough experience to know how to manage their work in a way that adds value to their organization and lets them feel personally successful and fulfilled. So let them.


Mentoring, or pairing early career employees with more seasoned workers, can be a very powerful engagement tool. For mid-career GenX-ers, participating in mentorship as either a mentor or mentee can reap huge benefits—both for the employee and the organization. Getting tapped to mentor a less experienced employee shows that an employee’s specific strengths are so valued that the organization wants to imbue others with those attributes. And because good mentoring goes far beyond mere knowledge transfer, many mentors find themselves recommitting to their organizations as they coach and support their mentees.

For many GenX-ers, being a mentee can be equally fulfilling. Having a trusted advisor to turn to for advice and guidance—especially as GenX employees navigate leadership transitions—makes employees feel valued and supported. Encouraging GenX employees to find mentors outside of their organization and to grow their professional network helps them gain “big picture” perspective and foster strategic thinking—crucial as mid-level employees move up the ranks.

Leadership Development

While many use the terms “management” and “leadership” interchangeably (and they are most certainly linked), they are really two different things. Management is often task-focused and work-oriented whereas leadership is people-focused and strategic. Peter Drucker, the godfather of modern management, defined leadership as to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

Professional advancement is important to GenX workers. Boomers are not retiring at previously projected rates, and many GenX employees feel stuck in middle management roles. Investing in leadership development for key employees sends a message that they are seen as the future of an organization and that their time is coming.

How is it that autonomy, mentoring and leadership development all increase employee engagement? All three are examples of trust. Giving people autonomy means you trust their expertise, their judgment and their ability to control how their work gets done. Encouraging seasoned managers to take newer employees under their wing or pairing managers with an additional advisor acknowledges you trust their current abilities and their potential. Investing in the development of leadership skills and traits means you trust them with the future.

These are just three ways to increase engagement for GenX managers. What else have you seen work? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

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