Who Are the Xennials, How to Manage Them and Why They Matter

Who are the Xennials and Why Visual Communication is an Effective Tool to Manage Them

While we are so busy worrying about how to keep Millennials productive and engaged, there’s a whole different generation that also deserves our attention — the Xennials.

Who are the Xennials?

Xennials refer to the generation born between 1977 and 1985. This microgeneration did not only witness the release of the original Star Wars trilogy but is also at the sweet spot of the Millennial and Gen X generations.

The Xennials possess the cynicism Gen Xers are known for and the relentless drive and optimism of today’s Millennials. This group of people lived an analog childhood and embraced digital technology in adulthood. Being a Xennial is hard. They struggle to fit in. They’re not quite a Millennial or Gen Xer at heart.

Still, I’d argue that those of us in between X and Millennial got some of the best of both worlds; we lucked out on history’s unwind. We adapted easily to technological advances but weren’t as beholden to them as our juniors. We were by no means immune to the Recession, but many of us were able to duck its heftiest blows.

It’s an accident of birth. I’ve always wanted to call myself something, to know for whom I sing when I’m “talkin’ bout my generation.” If I take it down to the micro-gen, I see that I’m lucky. We were born in the quiet break between two generational moments. Between the out-all-night dark horse Gen Xers and the-sunny-still-somehow-optimistic Millennial, there we were. We were born at dawn.

– Sarah Stankorb, Glad to be a Xennial

Here are some quick facts about Xennials:

  • Some people refer to this microgeneration as the “Oregon Trail Generation” — a homage to a popular computer game when they were growing up.
  • Xennials were the first generation to experience growing up with computers and the internet at home.
  • Xennials grew up without Facebook, Twitter or, even Friendster and MySpace but they are as savvy as their Millennial counterparts when it comes to social media.
  • The first cell phone went out when the Xenials were in their 20s. Prior to that, they had to use old rotary phones to call their friends’ homes.
  • They witnessed firsthand how the music industry transitioned from buying cassette tapes to downloading a song on Napster.
  • Xennials may have experienced the worst effects of the recession due to low employment rates and piling student loan debts.

How do Xennials fit in?

👨‍🦱 Generation X (mid-late 1960s – late 1980s)

Generation X is the post-Baby Boomer generation. They grew up enjoying unsupervised hours after school and just right before their parents come home from work. The Gen Xers were the first generation to enjoy mainstream video games. Local arcades sprung up in communities for those who can’t afford the first game consoles.

Generation X grew up without internet, cell phones, and computers. Social interactions were done in person or using those old rotary phones.

🧔 Xennials (1977 – 1985)

The Xennials bridge the gap between Gen Xers and Millennials. This microgeneration spent their childhood without computers. They came of age just right on time for the first dot-com bubble. Emailing became a major way of socializing for Xennial adolescents.

👨 Millennials (the 1980s – mid-1990s)

Millennials earn a reputation for being confident and optimistic. This generation grew up with computers and the internet. MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook were very transformative during their growing up years.

Unlike Xennials and Gen Xers, Millennials abandon the arcade in favor of gaming consoles and online games. They were also the first generation to socialize mainly through their smartphones.

👦 Generation Z (the late 1990s – present)

Show this generation a rotary phone or a cassette tape and they’ll probably have no idea what it is. The lives of Generation Z are built around smartphones and technology. They are very heavy in social media and much of their lives are fully documented online through their posts, tweets, and channels.

Working with Xennials

Believe it or not, Xennials have been taking care of the workplace for almost 20 years. But unfortunately, they are largely untapped and underappreciated. Find out below why you should start using your Xennial workers more effectively today.

🧩 Xennials are highly adaptive

Xennials were born at the dawn of tech. Growing up, they have owned MP3 players, CDs, and cassette tapes. They adapt easily as evident by how well they transitioned from an analog childhood to a digital adulthood. Xennials can think abstractly, knows how to find new solutions, and deliver value.

🧩 Xennials are team players

Xennials grew up spending real time with friends and peers. And because they are adaptive, they can adjust to different points of view in a snap. This unique trait makes Xennials great team members. They can work well with Gen Xers because their childhood doing Gen X things. Xennials know how to play cool with Millennials too!

🧩 Xennials are eager to learn

Let’s admit it, Gen Xers are chronically stuck with their old methods of doing things. While Millennials are too full of themselves to listen. Xennials, on the other hand, are more open to coaching. Yes, they have strong opinions but they are less vocal and can easily adjust between different points of view.

🧩 Xennials know the real work-life balance

Unlike the current generation, Xennials are not wedded to their smartphones. They know how to make quality time away from their gadgets which translates to better productivity once they return to office the next day.

🧩 Xennials can be great inter-generation mediators

“I don’t know what to do with him!” says a Gen X supervisor, while pulling her hair in disbelief.

It’s hard for Gen Xers to understand Millennials. But not Xennials. Because this microgeneration overlaps these two major generations, they are able to understand both sides and work well as mediators between the two.

🧩 Xennials are instructed by Luke Skywalker

Who doesn’t want a Jedi Padawan in their organization? The transformative years of Xennials were greatly influenced by classics such as George Lucas’ Star Wars and Tolkien’s Lod of the Rings. The story of Luke is worth noting here.

As a young boy, Luke grew up in an obscure planet and worked his way up to become a Lieutenant Commander of the Rebel Alliance and later, a Jedi Knight under the tutelage of Master Yoda. For those who saw the first Star Wars trilogy, we know that Luke Skywalker has to put a lot of time and energy into his training. He also has to learn how to quiet his emotions and trust his instincts. According to his father, Darth Vader, he is destined to join the Dark Side. But the young Jedi decided to carve out his own destiny.

How to Manage Various Generations in the Workplace including Xennials

Age diversity in the workplace does not guarantee success. But if you manage them carefully, you are well on your way.  Here are some tips on how to manage a multigeneration workforce:

1️⃣ Avoid labeling

Your management should not talk about generational differences. Instead, they should focus on how to improve the relationship of each worker despite their individual ages. Emphasize the value of teamwork, open communication, and collaboration.

2️⃣ Establish common grounds

Encourage your employees to embrace what they share. This simple habit brings the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration in the workplace. It also helps build trust across various generations of workers.

3️⃣ Provide open opportunities for all

Promotions and other opportunities should be based on skills and merit instead of seniority. This way, age differences will not matter. Also, when staffing your projects, try mixing and matching employees based on the value they offer not by age.

4️⃣ Avoid a tin can management approach

Evaluate your employees based on who they really are and the value they bring to the table. Don’t judge them based on the generation they belong to. Learn to appreciate the different goals, strengths, and abilities of your employees. There is no silver bullet when managing multigeneration workers.

5️⃣ Use video or visual communication

The internet made the world a lot smaller. Because of it, companies big and small can hire multigenerational employees no matter where they are around the globe. One of the challenges of having a remote workforce is communication. Using video communication effectively bridges that gap and makes an effective tool in getting your message across clearly.

65% of people are visual learners

Visual communication is playing an important role in engaging employees and increasing productivity in the workplace. Take a look at some of the stats below:

  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.
  • 80% of people remember what they see while only 10% remember what they hear and only 20% can recall what they read.
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • 65% of people are visual learners
  • Content containing visuals drive engagement to up to 94%

Managing a multigenerational workforce can be a daunting but rewarding experience. Gen Xers, Xennials, Millennials — each of these generations have something unique to bring to the table.

Tap into their abilities effectively by using the right tools and management practices. And make sure each generation is appreciated for the value they bring.


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Written By

Norberts Erts

HR Degen and Product Marketing Manager at Sage. Former Co-founder of HR software company CakeHR (acquired by The Sage Group plc in 2019). Keep a sharp eye on HR, marketing, business, finance, science, technology, and the connections between them.