What might be the best approach to improving productivity among Generation-X employees?
Although there is no definitive "beginning" or "cutoff" dates for people born under the moniker "Generation X", some have identified the relevant birth dates as being anywhere between the mid-1960's to the early 1980's. A few cultural markers generally associated with people of Generation X include the Space Shuttle disaster in 1986, the first Gulf War started in 1991, the launch of the World Wide Web, personal computers and Macs, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Generation X was the generation where change became the rule, rather than the exception, where workers no longer expected to retire with the same employer they started their career with, and where some began to question whether they would be the first generation in quite some time to not exceed their parents' standard of living.
In The Eighth Habit, the late Stephen Covey observed the vast changes spanning the globe, describing the type of society we are leaving as the Industrial Age, and the era we are entering as the Knowledge-Worker Age, or the Age of Wisdom. Covey argues that the problems many organizations are dealing with stem from the attempt to operate the organization in the Industrial Paradigm when the actual day to day operations are moving into the Knowledge-Worker paradigm. As such, Covey said that companies must stop treating employees as the interchangeable, machine-operating underpinnings of the Industrial system, and instead challenge, teach and expect employees to utilize and maximize what the calls the "birth gifts", that is to say, the individual strengths that everyone has. Covey said empower them, which will allow them to find a voice that allows them to contribute to the organization in an important way that makes them feel valued.
Covey cites the example in this book of a building employing several janitors; over a period of time and for a variety of reasons, the janitors were consulted about a variety of issues, including which cleaning products were most effective, among many others. The so-called "management" began soliciting the janitors' opinions about virtually everything related to the job they did, and even began delegating authority to the janitors to order supplies, maintain relationships with vendors, etc. The result was a quantum leap in productivity, one that never would have occurred with the old-fashioned "carrot and stick" approach of the Industrial Age. The crux of Covey's thesis is that motivating people has everything to do with acknowledging their value and worth to the organization, and showing that they are valued by giving them important work to do that synchronizes with their strengths, passions and voice.