Gen X May Struggle to Fill Baby Boomers Shoes

Baby Boomers are considered more business-savvy, better at coaching and development, and more likely to use functional expertise on the job than their Generation X counterparts, finds new research.

Generation X managers may struggle to fill Baby Boomers shoes as they retire over the next 10 years and company leadership transitions to the younger group, according to new research.

PDI (Personnel Decisions Internal), a Minneapolis-based global human resources consulting firm, on Jan. 30 released a report saying that 22.5 million Baby Boomers are on schedule to retire before 2017, transitioning leadership to Generation X managers born between 1964 and 1979, with differing skill sets and approaches to work.

In surveying the competencies of nearly 24,000 midlevel managers in 20 different skill areas, research found that while both groups were able to meet performance outcomes, they arrived at them very differently.

In 10 out of 18 competencies, the Baby Boomers received higher ratings from their managers; they were 18 percent more likely to be rated as "knowing the business" and 10 percent more likely to use technical or functional expertise on the job. Baby Boomers also received high marks for the ability to coach, develop and manage execution.

However, Generation X managers were applauded in other areas; managers in this age group received better ratings in self-development, work commitment and analyzing issues than their older counterparts.

"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," explained Brian Davis, executive vice president of practice areas at PDI. "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."

Based on the research, PDI encourages companies to identify when specific skills such as "managing execution" are critical to success and train younger generation workers specifically in the areas in which they are weaker. Potential leaders should be consistently screened for their grasp of these skills.

/zimages/4/28571.gifMiddle managers around the world are malcontent and feel stagnant in their positions, according to another survey. Click here to read more.

In addition, companies are advised to prepare for new management structures based on Generation X skill sets.

While Baby Boomers tend to have a more hierarchical, directive approach to leadership, Generation X is more collective and collaborative in their leadership style. To help facilitate the shift, younger managers are encouraged to broaden their job scope by being involved in problem-solving, while older managers are encouraged to work on their communication skills.

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