Generation X, our day has finally come. Sandwiched in between the conventional boomers and the trend-bucking millennials, my generation (those born between 1965 and 1981) is emerging as an important connection between our noisy bookends.
Gen X now accounts for 51 percent of leadership roles globally, with an average of 20 years of workplace experience, and is poised to rapidly undertake virtually all executive roles.
For real estate, JLL says that Gen Xers taking the helm in corporate America means the generation is the innovative force behind today’s workplace trends — especially their companies’ defining headquarters moves. Their study on Chicago-based companies says that, “Gen X CEOs are turning back to the city in increasing numbers in a search of millennial talent […]. This has had a profound effect on the commercial office market, as downtown, its office spaces and its residential stock reinvent themselves to accommodate young professionals’ preferences and pursuit of a live/work/play lifestyle.”
SVN International Corp. COO Diane Danielson says Generation X is returning a human element to real estate by recreating the nostalgic neighborhoods of our youth, where neighbors personally interact and a sense of community overrides isolationism. Among the characteristics of these desirable neighborhoods are a mix of uses, multiple modes of transportation and visually interesting design features, all of which encourage human contact, social activities and community involvement.
A report by Pew Research Center says Gen X is forever stuck in the middle between boomers and millennials when it comes to most anything – politics, religion and patriotism, among others – except for levels of advanced education, where Gen X bypasses other generations with 35 percent holding college degrees.
Bridging the gap between generations is no easy task. A key element linking the groups is that Gen X’s comfort and adaptability to technology – after all, we’re the last generation to grow up without smart phones and the internet – rivals that of millennials. Fifty-four percent of Gen Xers say they are digitally savvy, compared to 56 percent of digital native millennials. Nielson says that Gen X is the most digitally active online generation, spending close to seven hours a week on social media alone.
That digital ease translates to the workplace, where 67 percent of Gen X leaders say they’re successfully hyper-collaborating to break down organizational silos. And we’re taking on heavier workloads: Studies show Gen X managers have an average of seven direct reports, compared to millennials who have five.
Gen X CEOs strive to connect generations in the workplace by creating spaces where multigenerational workers can be productive and collaborative, with a mix of collaborative spaces preferred by younger workers and private desks and offices favored by boomers. Corner office status isn’t as alluring to Gen X, who instead strive to develop a work-life balance that keeps companies running efficiently and inspires talent from all generations.
Kathryn Hamilton, CAE, is Vice President for Marketing and Communications at NAIOP Corporate.