Everyone knows about Millennials and Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers. But there’s a smaller subset in there that’s starting to get attention. Xennials are a group with some particular features that stand out at work and in society.
Born between 1977 and 1983, this microgeneration has a unique perspective on the nature of work. When it comes to the workplace, Xennials have been taking care of business for almost two decades. They’re an under-tapped resource in today’s quickly evolving workplace. Read on to learn more about this small, but important group.
This story from Mike Rutkowski illustrates the impact Xennials can have in your workplace:
I remember when the idea of a Millennial being different in the workplace really became relevant to me. While managing a growing team of entry-level employees, I noticed that my mentor was calling on me to communicate to other members of our department.
She was and is a great communicator, but struggled to connect with the younger members of her department. The sensibilities of this new Millennial generation felt foreign to the sensibilities of her own, Generation X. She felt it was much more natural to communicate with me, and then I could pass things on to others.
The interesting part is: I’m a Millennial, too. But I didn’t share the struggles communicating that she encountered when speaking with other Millennials. She felt I understood better the things that she said, and that I brought what seemed like a more seasoned and “adult” approach to my work. For her, it was almost like having a fellow Gen-Xer in the room. And I brought the added bonus that I could think and talk like a Millennial with other Millennials.
As concepts around working with Millennials forced their way into the zeitgeist, some older Millennials started voicing a perspective that the typical characterizations of Millennials didn’t necessarily apply to them. Called Xennials, or The Oregon Trail Generation, this cohort of Millennials had their own sense of position in the workplace, offering a life experience that blended an analog childhood and digital adulthood and helped them understand both Gen-X and their younger fellow Millennials.
In her wisdom, my mentor realized all of this and set me to work. One of the most valuable ways I supported her was by following her lead and then translating her vision to my peers when she needed me to.
What are Xennials?
Paul Hammond describes Xennials as “a micro generation born during the cusp years of Gen Xers and Millennials (between 1977 to 1983 when the original Star Wars trilogy was released), having experienced an analogue childhood and a digital adulthood, and possessing both Gen X cynicism and Millennial optimism and drive.”
Professor Dan Woodman, of the University of Melbourne, says Xennials grew up during a unique time, with a childhood free of technology and social media (an analogue childhood) and an introduction to early technology in young adulthood. They are the oldest Millennials. He warns against thinking of all Xennials as the same even though they shared a lot of the same types of childhood experiences.
Take it from a Xennial
Xennials are just starting to recognize themselves as a unique micro-generation, separate and distinct but with a valuable blend of pre- and post-digital life. Author and speaker Matt Hamm is a Xennial who understands the place of the micro-generation in our world and how the workplace serves as a bridge between generations and a unique product of the analogue age and the digital age.
As Xennials work in a multi-generational workforce, Matt sees some unique problems that they face. Too much information and a sea of data have put the expectation of instant gratification and consumption of information higher up on the shelf than the pursuit of truth of wisdom. The importance of money is another concern, looking for purpose and meaning instead of only financial success and redefining wealth to include more than mere money. The hallmarks of Xennials are reaching beyond superficial self-help into a larger development of faith and a yearning for adventure and changing the world.
Xennials at Work
Trying to understand the 35-to-early-40-something Xennials in the workforce? Experts say Xennials are “exceptional.” Although they are not a huge wave like Baby Boomers, they are not just young Gen Xers or older Millennials.
They have a combination of Millennial idealism and Gen X realism, giving them strong convictions and strong follow through. They care about more than merely putting in their time. They connect to the organizational mission—a hallmark of engagement. They are very adaptable multi-taskers. Many of them probably have Baby Boomer parents, and have a foot in both Millennial and Gen X generations, giving them unique perspective and abilities to appreciate “hard copy” and our new digital reality.
That makes Xennials great trainers, coaches, mentors, and partners in the workforce, and a great resource for workplace coaching. Employers should take note of their Xennial employees and work with their strengths and unique perspective to develop and lead employees, groups, and initiatives.