Members of Generation X are gearing up to replace baby boomers as managers in many organizations over the next 10 years, and they will bring with them a new set of skills, according to research by Personnel Decisions International (PDI).
Accordingly, the skills baby boomers brought to the table likely will leave as 22.5 million members of that generation retire over the upcoming decade.
“Research shows Gen X managers may struggle to fill the baby boomers shoes if companies expect them to have the same big-picture view of the industry and technical knowledge as their predecessors,” said Brian Davis, PDI executive vice president of practice areas.
He also said employers must anticipate these differences and adjust accordingly.
“Companies need to be aware that a smooth transition to Gen X leadership may mean a shift from the expectations they had for baby boomers,” Davis said.
Generation X is composed of individuals born between 1964 and 1979.
According to “The PDI Pulse on Leaders,” baby boomers and members of Generation X have distinct styles as to how they meet performance outcomes. This finding is based on survey of about 24,000 midlevel managers in regard to competencies in 20 skill areas.
Managers awarded higher ratings to baby boomers than members of Generation X in 10 out of 18 competencies.
Additionally, baby boomers were about 18 percent more likely to “know the business” and 10 percent more likely to use functional or technical expertise on the job.
Members of Generation X, however, were more likely to receive better scores than baby boomers in regard to self-development, work commitment and analysis.
“Both the baby boomer and Gen X competencies are valuable tools in the marketplace,” Davis said.
He also said, though, that the unique strengths members of Generation X will bring to managerial positions must be acknowledged as different from — not inferior to — baby boomers’.
“It’s important to prepare for the changes that will result from these differences as companies transition to the next generation of managers,” Davis said.
PDI recommends companies plan to train younger managers in areas in which they’ve been identified as being weak. Further, companies ought to ensure upcoming high-potential leaders are not weak in those areas.
In addition to bolstering their skill sets, companies should be ready to adapt some managerial aspects to the strengths members of Generation X have, according to PDI.
In regard to the latter, companies might see leadership go from the more hierarchal, directive approach associated with baby boomers to the more collaborative style often attributed to Generation X.