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Soundview Executive Book SummariesBaby Boomers Vs. Gen Xers
Baby boomer Charlotte Shelton was determined to have it all, coming up in the male-dominated business world. She earned a doctorate degree, began her own consulting business and has shattered glass ceilings all her life.
Still, she was surprised to learn her daughter, Laura, didn’t share the same enthusiasm; Laura, a successful reporter, often felt disappointed in her profession. Charlotte, who is also a professor, found the same sentiments in her graduate-level MBA students.
Drawing from these accounts, historical references and survey analysis, The NeXt Revolution explores the "great divide" between Generation X and baby boomers in the workplace. To provide further insight, the Sheltons surveyed 1,200 Gen Xers born between 1964 and 1977, exploring motivations, expectations and satisfaction gaps in the workplace. In The NeXt Revolution, the mother-and-daughter team provides findings and strategies to meet the needs of this generation—centering especially on women.
Explaining her generation’s perceptions, motivations and what separates her generation from baby boomers, Laura writes the first four chapters, while Charlotte takes over the final four chapters to provide survey analysis and strategies for what she terms is "a new workplace" revolution that will cater more to Gen X.
So what is important to Gen Xers and what sets them apart from baby boomers? Gen Xers aren’t just content with a six-figure salary. In fact, research in The NeXt Revolution shows money and status are among the lowest ranked in importance among this generation. "Many boomers measure job success in dollars, but Xers appear to measure it in meaning," Charlotte says.
Gen Xer women measure success by relationships and work quality. For example, Gen X women ranked positive relationships with bosses and co-workers as the two most important workplace factors in the Shelton’s survey.
Some data suggests meaningful relationships might be a key factor for all age groups, the authors explain. For example, the book includes research by the Gallup organization, which found that having a good friend at work was also a key predictor of job satisfaction and high performance for both genders and generations.
However, in the Sheltons’ data, women consistently gave work relationships a higher importance rating than men. Thus, organizations that encourage meaningful personal relationships will be more likely to retain women employees.
Striking a Balance
Gen Xer women aren’t necessarily willing to make the same sacrifices as their female predecessors—who sometimes compromised domestic matters in the pursuit of business goals. Instead, Gen Xers are searching for an organization that understands the need for relationships.
"This ‘work-life’ balance is one of the defining characteristics of this generation," Laura explains. For women, this may mean having the freedom to raise a family and come back to work. As one strategy, the authors stress businesses’ need for easy "off-ramps" to take time after having babies. They also contend businesses need a "slow lane" and "on-ramps" for gradually and easily returning to work.
The moves towards freedom can be minimal—something as simple as casual dress or flexible working policies, but Gen Xers are also looking for freedom to enrich their personal life and expression.
Aside from flexibility, Gen Xers are searching for more variety and challenge in their daily job routines. Too often, Gen Xers feel "underutilized and bored-to-tears." The biggest gaps in satisfaction for Gen Xers existed in opportunities for advancement and interesting work. "Gen Xers grew up in fast-pace world and they want fast-moving companies and interesting action-packed jobs," Charlotte writes.
"The values of traditional, bureaucratic organizations are like night to the day of the values of the new workforces," Charlotte writes. This generation ranks flexibility and freedom over structure and rules. Gen Xers are searching for organizations that understand these values. The NeXt Revolution maps out four "roads to revolution" that Gen Xers and businesses can pursue. Gen Xers can make conscious decisions to leave companies that don’t have their needs in mind.
The issue of making Gen Xers happy will carry more weight in the coming years. Some 76 million baby boomers will retire in the next 15 years, and just 45 million Gen Xers will be replacing them. Thus, the authors emphasize that Gen Xers will have their pick of jobs and opportunities in the future.
Why We Like This Book
The NeXt Revolution provides an overview of generational differences through engaging personal accounts, synopses of current events and hard quantitative data that supports the authors’ points of view. The NeXt Revolution offers a well-rounded analysis of Gen X’s needs—along with ways that baby boomer managers and Gen X workers can transform their workplaces, balancing both professional and personal endeavors. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries