The generational clash in the workplace between millennials and baby boomers gets all the hype. It reminds me of the debate over who would win: Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson in his prime, because both have completely different styles and valid reasons why they would win.
However, a forgotten and unheralded challenger is primed to emerge as the next champion of the business world. It is Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980, and nobody seems to see them coming. When CNBC recently analyzed 17,776 transcripts from Wall Street earnings calls, Generation X was mentioned only 16 times compared to 620 times for millennials.
New studies and savvy business leaders are realizing that the Jan Bradys of our society are the most influential, have the most spending power and are about to take over the C-suite.
A study from Pew Research Center called "America’s Neglected Middle Child" sums up exactly why. They analyzed 10 categories in which Gen X bridges the wide chasm that exists between millennials and baby boomers, including racial diversity, technological fluency, political persuasions, not to mention both generations' views on gay marriage, the government and the use of social media.
As the head of marketing of Peak Sales Recruiting, I am seeing firsthand that the accelerating pace of retiring baby boomers is leaving a huge vacuum in the C-Suite that is being filled by Gen X.
Here are 5 reasons why Gen Xers are becoming the champions of the business world:
They know technology and wear ties. Generation X currently has the most applicable experience in today’s rapidly evolving global economy. Having been key contributors to the evolution of the tech sector, they not only understand technology but have managed teams and created strategies that have led to the launch of some of the world’s most innovative and disruptive companies.
They have unlimited spending power and their influence is underestimated. Marketers are beginning to realize a best-kept secret: Gen Xers have enormous spending power. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Generation X spends more money per household than any other generation at $66,981. AdAge concurs, noting that Gen X has more spending power than any other generation, representing 31 percent of total U.S. income. Sean Mahoney, vice president and group director at Digitas Studios, said all eyes are on millennials and boomers, and no one is paying attention to Gen X. "They're actually the people in power – power of the purse. They're running households, they're moving into political power, they're in the center of everything."
Bill Gates and other world-class brands gave them the keys to the kingdom: Bill Gates, one of the most successful innovators of all time, is in his 60s; which means he’s a baby boomer. In yet another stroke of genius, he turned the reins of Microsoft over to Satya Nadella, a Generation Xer who has received rave reviews for taking Microsoft further into the future by attracting talent from young startups. If Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men on the planet, believes in Generation X, then you can too. McDonald's, 21st Century Fox and Harley-Davidson, among others, have put Gen Xers in the corner office. "There is going to be a sea change in terms of the ways that individuals in the corner office lead,"’ Sandra Davis of MDA Leadership Consulting said in an interview with the WSJ. "They [Gen Xers] are far more nimble and agile."
Gen X has produced some of the best entrepreneurs: In between former General Motors CEO and baby boomer Jack Welch and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, there have been enormously influential Gen X CEOs who have helped the United States maintain its position as the best economy in the world. This includes a list of innovators often overlooked as Gen Xers, such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Dell Computers' Michael Dell.
They're paving the way for millennials to achieve greater success: As a millennial, I admire my Gen X colleagues and am constantly blown away by their ingenuity, intelligence and innovation. Their insights and knowledge guide today’s businesses and are opening the doors for Millennials to achieve greater success in the years to come.
The greatest generation, baby boomers and millennials have all made tremendous contributions to our society. Not to be outdone are the contributions, influence and power that Generation X holds today. Due to a confluence of socioeconomic issues and experience, Gen Xers are beginning to dominate the C-Suite and drive our economy forward until Millennials are ready to take us to even greater heights down the road.