Baby Boom Leadership Gap

Identifying and cultivating key talent, employees with high potential or “rising stars” as tomorrow’s leaders will be important to fill the management void created by retiring baby boomers. Successful companies offer development opportunities, career goal planning and resources (training, compensation, coaching, recognition, etc.) to these employees.

It’s smart business to invest in top performers and rising stars. They are typically responsible for generating a significant percentage of a company’s innovation, improvement and bottom-line results. Bill Gates once said, “Take our twenty best people away from us, and I can tell you that Microsoft would be an unimportant company.”

Today’s managers require special skills and competencies to be effective. In a recent survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, more than 97 percent of senior leaders identified the ability to collaborate as essential to future leadership success. Yet many managers lack this key skill. Only 30 percent of respondents in the same survey believed leaders in their organization are skilled in collaboration.

Why the gap? The times have changed. Employees are under pressure to do more with less and working in environments of continual change.

Effective leadership today requires more than technical skills, expertise and solid work ethics. Collaboration (versus the old-school style of authoritative management) is essential for effective management of today’s cross-functional operating groups and teams.

Top performers and employees with high potential have high expectations: They want to be heard, have influence, receive constructive feedback and be engaged in meaningful work. They are generally intolerant of what they believe to be unreasonable or ineffective company policies, processes and leadership.

Stars expect companies to support and provide opportunities for their growth and development.

“If you don’t make an effort to provide an environment in which this generation can do their best, they’re going to find one where they can,” said Dan Black, Ernst & Young’s director of campus recruitment.

Companies concerned about creating that environment need a talent management program to identify, support and develop their current and rising stars. Most talent management programs include the following steps:

  • Defining the core business and/or position competencies that are required to meet current and future business objectives. These typically include (but are not limited to):

Emotional intelligence. People who can handle stress and conflict well, understand their impact (self-awareness), manage their emotional reactivity and have strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Leadership/team skills. The ability to collaborate, motivate and inspire others to achieve their potential while setting clear direction.

The “right stuff” or drive for excellence. Those who do their best every day. It’s about attitude — and, by the way, you can’t train a good attitude or initiative.

Adaptability. Being open to new ideas and change.

Vision. Being able to “see beyond the edge of the desk.” People with vision can effectively challenge and inspire others with “what could be” rather than accepting that “it’s always been done this way.”

Results-focused and innovative. These employees don’t get stuck in the muck of problems. They can find their way around obstacles and have excellent problem-solving skills and sound judgment.

  • Identifying employees who have both competencies and potential for future leadership positions.

Assessments and software programs are available to help evaluate employees’ suitability and skills for particular positions. Internal programs also can identify consistent or exceptional performers, and performance reviews can effectively measure core competencies.

  • Designing and executing programs to address career and employee development plans. Elements often include advanced education, skill and technical trainin, mentoring, and leadership development training and coaching.

Most senior managers recognize that new skills are required for leadership success in today’s workplaces. Investing in high potential and talented employees has never been more important. The best programs offer new job challenges and opportunities and actively involve employees in the creation of their own career plan.

The wisest business investment you can make is in yourself and your people’s leadership development.  I can help you identify, grow and develop your leaders. Call me:  360 682 5807 or email:

Baby Boomers Career Advice

Many potential retirees are postponing retirement and some are job hunting.

Employers find the “boomer” resume a mixed message: many years of experience, but someone who may be on the verge of retirement. For many older job seekers, finding themselves back pounding the pavement is difficult, scary and frustrating.

The good news: Your decades of experience are highly valuable and many companies need it badly (particularly small companies).

If you are a boomer needing (or wanting) to work, consider these optimistic statistics. Almost a third of companies surveyed are concerned about their loss of “intellectual capital” with retiring boomers. One out of five indicate they are likely to rehire retirees from other companies.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a serious shortage of highly skilled workers and experienced managers and executives.  Career experts claim knowledge workers are in high demand. Companies, though slow to get on board, are increasingly identifying the shift in workers’ relative age (I’m told 50 is the new 40) and are adjusting HR policies and hiring strategies.

I regularly coach senior managers on their challenges associated with finding and retaining “experienced resources.” Many have a worried eye on upcoming and current leadership gaps in their companies. I also coach seasoned professionals trying to find best fit positions and figure out their next move in this economy. From the two sides of the coin vantage, I offer these suggestions:

  • Assess first. What are your core talents, skills and value to a business? Discern what you want in a job, both your must-have and would-be-nice- to-have lists. Be realistic about your energy, salary/benefit requirements and your commitment level to the prospective job. Employers need to be realistic, too. Starting salary levels aren’t applicable to those with decades of professional experience.
  • Identify and target industries that need your experience. Consider health care, temporary staffing agencies, retail and nonprofits; a Bridgespan Group study claims nonprofits will need some 640,000 new senior leaders over the next 10 years. Check out companies that have specifically declared their desire to hire older workers ( and the AARP are good resources). While many larger companies choose to target younger, less expensive labor (and have identified their costs associated with turnover as acceptable), many smaller companies can’t afford significant hiring mistakes. They are in need of experienced workers, particularly those with proven management and leadership skills. Of note: Small businesses in the U.S. have generated 60 percent to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade, according to SCORE.
  • Customize your resume for each position. Despite your decades of work experience, include only 10 to 15 years of your relevant experience for the position you are targeting. Use your resume to provide proof of quantifiable results. This will get their attention and get you an interview.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate that old dogs can learn new tricks. These days, job security and continual learning go hand in hand. Potential employers are looking for individuals who demonstrate a willingness to embrace continual change and keep up with changing skill requirements. Upgrade your skills. Finish that degree, master new technical skills (techno literacy is critical in today’s job market) or complete a certificate program.
  • Network, network, network. Mid- to senior-level positions are rarely filled via job ads. Most employers prefer to hire referrals from internal employees, professional colleagues or through their recruitment channels. Let your long list of contacts over all these years know what kind of work you are seeking. Use or risk looking “old school.”
  • Consider freelancing or contract work. More good news — more companies than ever use outside contract work.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I ready people for interviews and career coach people from all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: