According to a recent study by Executive Development Associates, over 78 million Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1964) will be exiting the workforce “at a rate of about one every four seconds.” As they grab their gold watch and wave goodbye, not only are they taking their skills, knowledge and experience with them, but also their leadership experience. According to the same study, the downstream effect is that this will leave employers with a shortage of leaders in the future.
So what can employers start doing today to build up the strength of their leadership bench for the future?
Identifying future leaders today tends to take place during succession planning-type activities with a focus on more seasoned employees. In the future, that’s going to be too long to wait. Leadership qualities will need to be identified earlier in the process. How early can you start? How about during the hiring process? How about before the hiring process? Recruit on local college campuses to identify students who have demonstrated some capacity for leadership. Create a program with the explicit intent to hire some of those who were identified.
There are three generations in the workforce today. In addition to the Baby Boomers, there are Generation X and Generation Y workers. Baby Boomers tend to be loyal to their employers and value hard work. Generation X workers (those born between 1965 and 1984) are resourceful, independent and eager to learn. Generation Y (born between 1985 and 2004 and also known as Millennials) like specific instructions and want both their personal and career needs met by their employer. A Baby Boomer may be motivated by pats on the back for doing good work, a Generation X worker by an opportunity to attend training, and a Generation Y worker by more flexibility in their work schedule. Being aware of these generational differences when managing a team can be an important factor in retaining key talent to take on future leadership roles.
With an anticipated shortage of leaders to meet the future demand, competition for this talent may become fierce. If you don’t want to get caught off guard, start thinking about the implications of this for your business. It typically takes years to develop leaders. Don’t wait until it’s too late in the game to start taking some action.
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