As the two opposing tribes of baby boomers and millennials continue to slug it out in a culture war, there is one demographic that has been largely forgotten.
When Douglas Coupland published his 1991 book popularizing the title “Generation X,” it seemed to stand for an educated generation enjoying the spoils of economic growth, consumerism and opportunity. Now this cohort, aged roughly 39 to 54 depending on your accepted definition, finds itself midlife, in a position of workplace authority — yet facing up to its own advancing years and the challenge of being sandwiched between their forebearers and offspring.
Although every age group will find commonalities with some of the areas below, employers that want to best respond to the needs of some of their Gen X staff should use customized benefits programs to recognize their distinct characteristics and needs.
1. Tailor For Age-Specific Ailments
My generation has reached that pivotal point where health can become a big issue. For Gen Xers who at one time may have partied all night long, proactive medical needs like colonoscopies and mammograms are becoming important measures to take.
Employers must recognize the need to provide such preventative products by offering tailored, generation-specific health packages and by being prepared for their insurance providers to guide employees.
For HR departments, a valuable area of focus should be to drive awareness around the importance of preventative diagnosis. One way to do this is by threading relevant and informative messaging into company benefits literature. For example, many people do not take the necessary measures to meet all their wellness needs by scheduling annual physicals, skin screenings and more depending on their specific risk factors. Employers should play a larger role in helping to guide and encourage employees to keep up with their physical health while selecting benefits that contribute to their wellness.
2. The In-Betweeners
According to Pew Research Center , Gen Xers are often caught in a difficult position of taking care of not only their children, but also their own aging parents. This “anchor” role can increase stress levels and also threaten their careers due to the challenging outside factors.
This also means Gen X employees are at greater risk of contracting illnesses from family members at both ends of the age spectrum who tend to bring a richer mix of germs into the home. As a result, employers may need to be able to support more frequent doctor visits for employees and will need to factor this into their provider costs.
3. Embrace Demand
Generation X is the empowered generation. As the first audience to receive direct-to-consumer drug ads , they are liklier to make swift and self-directed health buying decisions. Although born before the internet was invented, they have grown up with ubiquitous information.
Many Gen Xers are also educated and demanding, which may be a challenge for employers used to doing things the way they have always have. But it is also an excellent opportunity to listen to what employees really value.
They are also converts to health practices like telemedicine and to tech-enabled administrative processes that replace traditional practices with efficiency. Employers who arm information-thirsty Gen Xers with choice, relevance and healthcare services that can provide convenient access through services like after-hours clinics or online booking will reap employee loyalty.
Generation X’s architect, Douglas Coupland, once conceded that he has not been employed since 1988 and reportedly said “the nine to five is barbaric.”
For the rest of us, employer health insurance is critical, and for companies to stand the best chance of keeping their best workers, it is important that HR leaders use all the levers at their disposal to engage their Xers.