Bye, bye boomers

Smart or­ga­ni­za­tions pre­pare for re­tire­ment on­slaught

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

THE baby-boomer exit is here. So far, it’s been some­what in­nocu­ous, with rather quiet re­tire­ments of dis­tant cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives. Lloyd Robertson, lead an­chor of CTV evening news for in­stance, stepped down a cou­ple of years ago with barely cast­ing a rip­ple. Lo­cally, many well-known en­trepreneurs and or­ga­ni­za­tional lead­ers have qui­etly passed the torch to up-and-com­ing lead­ers.

It was the re­cent an­nounce­ment of a gen­er­a­tional shift at ABC-TV that re­ally got my at­ten­tion. At 68, Diane Sawyer, the long­time, high-pro­file evening news an­chor was re­placed by a 40-year-old. As ex­pla­na­tion, ABC ex­ec­u­tives re­ported a gen­er­a­tional shift was nec­es­sary to ap­peal to younger au­di­ences. Thus, by dub­bing the evening news as “a ves­tige of an­other time,” Diane Sawyer was painted with the same brush and sent off to do spe­cial projects.

In the real world, not many businesses can af­ford to have an up-and-com­ing leader work­ing as an un­der­study, es­pe­cially for a lengthy pe­riod — it’s just too ex­pen­sive. The re­sult is a loss of cor­po­rate knowl­edge within many or­ga­ni­za­tions and the cre­ation of a grow­ing lead­er­ship gap.

Cou­ple this with the fact lead­er­ship skills needed to take or­ga­ni­za­tions into the fu­ture are dif­fer­ent than to­day’s tech­ni­cal skills and man­age­ment style. The U.S.-based Cen­ter for Cre­ative Lead­er­ship says col­lab­o­ra­tion is one of the key skills miss­ing from fu­ture lead­ers. In their view, col­lab­o­ra­tion is be­com­ing more im­por­tant be­cause of the de­mand to do more with less ac­com­pa­nied in a con­tin­u­ally chang­ing global mar­ket­place.

These de­mands will see an in­creased use of cross­func­tional teams and in­ter­de­part­men­tal re­liance as well as project teams that span across dif­fer­ent agencies and/or cor­po­ra­tions. Whereas, this and other skills have al­ready been found lack­ing in the mar­ket­place, the most ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of a lack of skills is to be­gin ag­gres­sively as­sess­ing and de­vel­op­ing cur­rent in­ter­nal talent.

Few com­pa­nies, pri­vate and/or cor­po­rate as well as not­for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions I’ve en­coun­tered, have con­ducted a study of their work­force. This valu­able ex­er­cise en­ables em­ploy­ers to map de­mo­graph­ics, iden­tify the level of risk for re­tire­ments and/or em­ployee ex­its and iden­tify front­line work­ers with the po­ten­tial for per­sonal and pro­fes­sional growth. Once this sur­vey is done, businesses can de­velop a plan to pro­mote from within.

I have seen the suc­cess of this type of ini­tia­tive both within my own firm and clients’ firms. For in­stance, can you imag­ine the cor­po­rate value pro­vided by a front-line man­u­fac­tur­ing worker who was iden­ti­fied as high po­ten­tial? With a com­bi­na­tion of in-house train­ing and sup­port for univer­sity ac­cred­i­ta­tion, within a few years, this in­di­vid­ual was pro­moted to the se­nior man­age­ment team and stayed with the firm for many years.

Let’s look at how to fos­ter a learn­ing cul­ture within an or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Con­duct a work­force anal­y­sis: This strat­egy will en­able the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of em­ploy­ees at all lev­els of the or­ga­ni­za­tion who are el­i­gi­ble to re­tire, and en­able you to plan for each risk. Use it to iden­tify in­di­vid­ual ed­u­ca­tional sta­tus and in­ter­ests and as­sist you to put a suc­ces­sion plan in place. If your or­ga­ni­za­tion has a hu­man re­source in­for­ma­tion sys­tem, en­sure the in­for­ma­tion is kept up­dated so a work­force anal­y­sis is no longer re­quired an­nu­ally.

Re­view and re­fine your re­ten­tion strat­egy: Baby boomers are likely not to re­tire all at once, so you need a strat­egy that continues to en­gage those who stay. This can be ac­com­mo­dated through part-time and con­tract work, as well as coach­ing and men­tor­ing with emerg­ing lead­ers and/or through front-line teach­ing as­sign­ments for tech­ni­cal skills.

Ap­ply lead­er­ship talent as­sess­ments: In­ter­net tech­nol­ogy makes it easy to ap­ply a psy­cho­me­t­ric as­sess­ment tool to help emerg­ing lead­ers un­der­stand their skills and ar­eas of chal­lenge. These as­sess­ment re­sults should be used to de­velop ca­reer plans as de­scribed be­low. As well, the as­sess­ments help man­agers and busi­ness own­ers make de­ci­sions about the hir­ing, re­cruit­ment and train­ing of po­ten­tial emerg­ing lead­ers.

En­gage in ca­reer plan­ning: A ca­reer plan can be made for ev­ery em­ployee. Firstly, iden­tify the skills and com­pe­ten­cies re­quired in each job and cre­ate a ca­reer map to demon­strate how a can­di­date can progress. Make these ca­reer maps pub­lic through­out the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion. Help em­ploy­ees see where their ca­reer might lead should they de­velop ad­vanced skills. For those des­ig­nated as emerg­ing lead­ers, meet with them to de­velop a con­crete plan for de­vel­op­ing their skills. This can in­clude for­mal train­ing through ro­ta­tion as well as in­house train­ing and univer­sity/ col­lege sup­port.

Avoid the quick fix: Cor­po­rate lead­ers of­ten think the best ap­proach to lead­er­ship train­ing is to send their em­ployee to an in­ten­sive five- to 10-day learn­ing pro­gram. How­ever, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, you’ll find that shortly af­ter be­ing back to work, the pro­gram binders are sit­ting on a shelf. The in­di­vid­ual is left with­out a coach and/or a pro­gram col­league with whom to test out as­sump­tions and to try new strate­gies learned in the pro­gram.

Cre­ate, pro­gres­sive de­vel­op­ment pro­gram­ming: Re­search has proven the best ap­proach to learn­ing is be­ing able to ap­ply one’s newly learned skills at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity, ac­com­pa­nied by per­sonal coach­ing and feed­back. Pro­grams that of­fer this ap­proach are typ­i­cally held ev­ery few weeks dur­ing a six-month pe­riod. While the pro­grams can be de­liv­ered in­di­vid­u­ally, the best ap­proach is a group set­ting in which in­di­vid­u­als can share per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences and suc­cess strate­gies and gain as­sis­tance on prob­lems. Usu­ally, this sup­port group will ex­ist long af­ter the pro­gram is over.

Wise busi­ness own­ers avoid get­ting caught with­out the lead­er­ship skills and re­sources needed for suc­cess.

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