Organizational change impacts everyone. The experience is very individual and affects everyone in a different manner. As we have explored in previous posts, approaching change through a generational lens is a useful tool to help companies manage change in a positive and productive way with an ERP or other business transformation. This post focuses on Generation X. There are two overriding themes that will help you guide change with this generation: trust and inclusiveness.
Generation X employees were born between 1965 and 1979. They are the children of Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, who sought the security of working for one organization for 30 to 40 years. Generation X saw that foundational belief fall by the wayside as parents were laid off during sweeping business changes in the 1980s and early ‘90s, and many of them experienced it first-hand during the Recession of 2008.
With less stability in workplace longevity, transparent communication became important to this group. While growing up in the 1980s, they often heard “Trust no one over 30” sparking a sense of self-reliance. The youngest of them are approaching 40 today and their experiences have given them a strong faith in themselves and less in the institutions that have failed their parents, and thus in their opinion, them as well. This includes any social contract between employer and employee which has led to a perception that they are disloyal to organizations. However, this perceived disloyalty can often be traced back to responses from poor leadership and/or less than transparent business practices- something companies need to rectify as part of a productive Organizational Change Management (OCM) strategy.
Gen X: embracing change
Don’t let the challenges I just mentioned deter you. Gen Xers also have the right attributes to not only contribute to but actually drive successful OCM. For example, this was the first generation to really embrace change, and they can help drive the change in your company if you keep a few things in mind.
Generation X represents much of your leadership
Because of their ages, they not only make up one of your most seasoned band of workers, but heavily populate your middle management roles and are infiltrating senior management positions. They are in the best position to understand the extremes of the organization. They can communicate with upper management to understand the big picture strategy, but they are still close enough to the end-users to understand the day-to-day headaches involved with the frontline jobs. Ultimately, they are the conduit for explaining the big picture to the frontline while identifying potential speedbumps to strategy to C-level management. Buy-in at this level influences the entire organization, and therefore your end transformation result.
Maintain transparent communication
Gen Xers have no hesitancy to request full disclosure of the strategy of the organization and often expect to be part of its creation. They want to have a clear picture on all the change initiatives and how the actions will serve the future- specifically, theirs. They need to know what is ultimately expected of them throughout the process, so they can manage their resources appropriately, especially if they are expected to maintain normal production goals while asking their teams to train on a new system.
Give them a voice in the process
Functionally, this is the group that will manage the ERP changes you are making now. They want to play a major role in how well they exploit its benefits through the next decade. Because this is a group that leans toward self-determination, they need to be included in the big picture to achieve your organization’s goals. They will want to contribute to the discussions regarding your transformation- from requirements gathering for the new ERP, through go-live, and beyond. To shut Gen Xers out of this process will send a signal that they have no control in the direction of the organization, or their place in it, and may unintentionally prompt them to consider moving on. It would be a major threat to the success of your ERP initiative to lose this knowledge base while moving from the legacy system to the new one.
Rely on their insight
Again, change is not a fundamental issue for Generation X. Their concern is maintaining their ability to navigate change. If they represent middle and senior level management, your organization already has been grooming them to be able to make major decisions. Because of their sense of self-reliance, Gen Xers are as ready as anyone to be held accountable for their own decisions – for better or worse. An ERP implementation or any other significant organizational transformation is not a simple process. There will be bumps along the way in the best of circumstances. Gen Xers are ready to take control and manage the issues. They will jump to the creativity of solving the problems that spring up during the transition, worry less about what they’re leaving, and focus more on what they are helping the organization achieve. They are vested in success and will provide fuel to overcome obstacles… when engaged
Generation X may have the opportunity to make the most impact on the success of an ERP transformation with perspective from many levels of your organization and an interest in hands on involvement. If your organization seems reluctant to keep this generation of management in the loop and actively listen to them when they raise justified warnings regarding the execution of strategy, then you are likely going to lose key personnel who would keep the project moving on time and on budget. Instead, gain their buy-in to the project through transparency and an active role in the process. This may be your largest group of internal influencers for change, so make sure they are part of your change management plan.