Piling Canada

In-house Training Mitigates Boomer Retirement Risk

Smart organizations can begin planning now
March 2015

Smart organizations can begin planning now

We all know it’s been happening – the baby boomer exit, that is. To date, it’s been fairly innocuous. Yet, businesses are being impacted by baby boomer retirements. For instance, many small business owners have had to look to the potential of mergers and acquisitions as a means to exit their business.

That’s because the challenge for small businesses is that not many organizations 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, big and small, and the creation of a growing leadership gap.

Couple this challenge with the fact that the leadership skills needed to take organizations successfully into the future are quite different than today’s technical skills and management style. In fact, current leaders perceive that the one key skill missing from the up-and-coming group of leaders is collaboration. In their view, collaboration is important especially because of the demand to do more with less accompanied by a continually changing global marketplace. In turn, these demands will see an increased use not only of cross-functional teams and interdepartmental reliance but also project teams that span across different agencies and/or corporations.

So, what is an effective solution to this perceived lack of skills? One answer is to begin aggressively assessing and developing your own internal talent. And from an assessment point of view, very few organizations ever conduct a study of their workforce. Yet, this is such a valuable activity for mapping your workforce demographics and identifying the level of risk for retirements and/or employees. It is also valuable for identifying front line workers with the potential for personal and professional growth. Once a workforce survey is complete, you are then ready to begin fitting employees into a variety of progressive professional development plans so that you can “promote from within.”

From one real-life example, a front line manufacturing worker was identified as high potential. This individual was mentored over a period of five years and provided with a combination of in-house training and support for university accreditation. The individual was continually promoted, and within a few years became a member of the executive team and stayed with the company for many additional years. Certainly a huge overall benefit!

Now that you can appreciate the value of this approach, let’s look at how to start and how to foster a learning culture within your organization.

Conduct a workforce analysis
As mentioned earlier, this strategy will enable you to identify employees at all levels of the organization who are eligible to retire and enable you to plan for such risk. Use your information to identify the individual educational status and interests of your younger generation and use this information to put a succession plan in place. If your organization has a Human Resources Information System (HRIS), then ensure your information is kept updated.


Review and refine your retention strategy
Whereas your baby boomers are likely not to retire all at once, you need to develop a strategy that continues to engage those that stay. This can be accommodated through part-time work, 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
With today’s Internet technology, it’s easy to apply a psychometric assessment tool to help emerging leaders as well as others understand their skills and areas of challenge. These assessment results should also be used in developing the 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 through assignments as well as in-house training and university/college support.

Avoid the common quick fix
Corporate leaders often think the best approach to leadership training is to send their employee to an intensive, five- to ten-day residential learning program. However, you might find that shortly after being back to work, the program binders are simply 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 over and over again 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 over a six-month timeframe. While the programs can be delivered individually, the best approach is a group setting where individuals can share personal experiences and success strategies and at the same time, gain assistance on specific problems. Usually, this support group will exist long after the program is over.

There’s no doubt about it, the gates are open and baby boomers are exiting in larger numbers. So, if you are wise, avoid getting caught without the necessary leadership skills and resources needed to drive your organization to future success.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed. is president of Legacy Bowes Group and president of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

Source: Adapted from the Winnipeg Free Press, “Bye, bye boomers, Smart organizations prepare for retirement onslaught” by Barbara J. Bowes, 07/12/2014.

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Category: Business

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