Gen X is a name that provokes controversy, fear, pride, and for many in sales management, confusion, when the label applies
to their sales reps. This generation has the reputation of being the "free agent" workforce—workers with no fear of job hopping
and challenging the rules. To Gen Xers, choice is power.
This group of more than 44 million young adults has overtaken the US workforce, and its challenging nature is causing non-Gen
X managers to question time-honored incentive techniques. At the same time, Gen Xers are attractive to many managers because
of their typically strong work ethic. Although self-reliant, they desire to be taken seriously and want to be valued by their
Who Are They?
No birth dates wholly define the span of Gen X, but generally they were born in the '60s and '70s with a part of their teen
years spent in the '80s—which defines the majority of pharma sales reps today. A search of various sources on trends for this
group reveals that they were raised in a time characterized by high divorce rates, which forced high levels of responsibility
and independence at young ages. They watched as women took on new roles. They experienced firsthand a world-changing boom
of technological innovation.
All of these factors influenced Gen Xers to value both freedom and responsibility. They despise the materialistic ways of
the previous generation, yet crave the latest in high-tech gadgets. They appreciate the balance between hard work and leisure,
and tend to embrace diversity in all its forms—cultural, political, sexual, racial and social. A recent poll found that 90
percent of Gen Xers agree that helping others is more important than helping oneself. Also, nearly 70 percent of Gen Xers
are parents and embrace strong family values.
As pharma companies shrink the size of their sales forces, managers are looking for ways to retain and motivate their most
productive reps. With members of Gen X representing such a large portion of the pharma sales-rep ranks, managers cannot afford
to overlook this generation's distinct attributes and needs.
Creating Incentive Programs
For this reason, managers should take great care in designing incentive programs to improve the performance of this unique
population. A recent Maritz Poll found that 66 percent of employees surveyed said incentive programs influence their decision
to stay with a company; for those under age 35, the number rose to more than 74 percent. Furthermore, research from the SITE
Foundation, the research arm of the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives, found that a well-designed program can increase
performance as much as 22 percent.
By taking into account the specific needs of Gen Xers, managers can incorporate a few key elements into incentive programs
to motivate them. While there are a variety of award options available for incentive programs, some have particular appeal
to Gen Xers: the latest technological gadgets for home, office, or car; furniture and appliances for the home; products for
the kids; and items with high "splurge value"—things that are desirable but tough to justify buying, such as autographed sports
memorabilia, or a digital juke box, pool table or diamond bracelet. Timesaving awards, such as cleaning services, personal
chefs or caterers for at-home parties are also popular. Experiential awards, such as personal travel, tend to be well received