Today’s Invisible Leadership Challenge

In today’s whirlwind business environment, we have far too many things to focus on … current national debt, mortgage crisis, healthcare crisis, jobs, food prices, oil prices, education, immigration, the environment, and social security to name a few. The media, in a variety of formats, hammers us on these issues almost hourly.

While these issues are indeed obvious and critical, there is still another growing challenge which is just as significant, if not more so, to our business environment. However, it is seldom recognized, discussed or dealt with. It’s almost as though many organizations are ignoring its existence altogether.

Consider the following facts:

  • There are more than 78.2 million boomers in the U.S.!
  • Fortune Magazine reminds us that every seven seconds, someone turns 60. That equates to 12,343 baby boomers turning 60 years old or older every day!
  • The boomers are retiring in record numbers from the American workplace.
  • Today, the average retirement age of a worker is between 61 and 62, compared to 65 just a few years ago.
  • Forty percent of the workforce will be retiring soon, leaving not a hole in leadership but a crater!

U.S. businesses face a shortage of millions of workers in the next 10 years. The Boston College Center on Aging and Work conducted a major survey of organizations across industries and discovered that only 33% of employers said that their business had analyzed workplace demographics and made projections about the retirement rates of their workers.

Over the next decade we’re going to be slapped in the face with some cruel realities. Let’s ponder a few of those realities:

  • Retiring baby boomers are going to be difficult to replace as researchers have found that the loyalty, reliability and strong work ethic will disappear altogether as this generation retires.
  • There will be a tremendous loss of labor, experience and expertise that will be difficult to offset, given the relatively small pool of new workers and the competition for new talent likely to result from so many companies facing the same problem.
  • Weigh the amount of knowledge and experience our current baby boomers have accumulated over the years in the areas of our products, services, processes, tools, culture, history, customers, vendors, competition, and industry.
  • Experts say that management and leadership skills would be the asset in shortest supply in most organizations.

There must be a formalized system in place to capture that which we are about to lose. This loss will be like a slow water leak, barely discernible at first, but over time it can do major damage.

Organizations that do not plan to deal with this emerging skills and experience gap may very well find themselves suddenly facing the most critical dilemma they have ever had to deal with. Manpower warns that this loss of experienced workers could be crippling for many companies.

This critical issue is being treated like a bad weather report—we hear the news that the storm is coming, but we ignore the warnings until it is too late.

Does your organization have a formal strategy for identifying the potential leadership and skills gap and developing talent to fill that gap before your workers retire?

Ask yourselves these questions:

  1. How many senior leaders or senior technological staff will be retiring over the next 10 years?
  2. What is the impact to the organization when (not if) you lose the knowledge of those individuals?
  3. What strategy do you have in place to ensure seasoned, experienced leaders and technical staff are in the pipeline?
  4. What actions are you taking to retain knowledge in the organization?
  5. Have you considered allowing your experienced boomers to formally mentor or coach those who will soon be replacing them in the areas of your products, services, processes, tools, culture, history, customers, vendors, competition, and industry? This transfer of information and experience is invaluable.

Organizational busyness can distract us to the point that, by the time we look up, it will be too late to recover from the consequences we’re facing.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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