Many of today’s senior leaders belong to the Generation of Baby Boomers. The term “Baby Boomers” refers to the generation that was born between 1946 and 1964. In 2017, baby boomers will be between 53 and 71 years old. The Population Reference Bureau report, “Aging in the United States,” examines recent trends among adults ages 65 and older (January, 2016). They have extensive experience and a wealth of knowledge that cannot be easily transferred to new leaders. Yet this is the challenge of leadership development. How do you ramp up new leaders quickly and bridge the talent and experience gap?
When your leaders are the same age, you are at risk of many or your leaders retiring around the same time. Obvious successors (middle managers) may not be available to fill succession plans due to their impeding retirement. The Generation Xers (approximately 32-52 years old) are a much smaller demographic than the Baby Boomers. Therefore, organizations are looking to Millennials to meet their talent needs.
U.S. birth rates underlying each generation: http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2015/01/FT_16_04.25_generationsBirths.png
Baby Boomers are retiring at 1 every 4 seconds and they are taking their knowledge and experience with them.
Many leadership roles have been filled with Baby Boomers for many years and have led organizations through multiple recessions. Recessions that resulted in lean management thus decreasing the leadership opportunities for younger generations (Generation X and Generation Y/Millennials). Baby Boomers are retiring in large numbers with estimates of 1 retirement every 4 seconds. Unfortunately, their successors have had limited experience in leadership. The successors are also stepping into a leadership role where they are often managing subordinates who are older than they are (and possibly much older!)
Experienced leaders will continue to be in demand for many years and there aren’t enough to go around. What do organizations do now?
Develop younger leaders as fast as you can. Identify what skills are required to lead your organization and focus on develop emerging leaders.
Retain retirees as mentors. It’s time to get creative about how to ramp up new leaders and transfer knowledge.
Expand your definition of “high potential” to include individuals who are older than the typical younger candidate. Effective succession planning looks at creating a diverse talent pool including incorporating individuals from different age groups.
Reconsider the “required experience” boxes for roles. Emerging leaders may not have had the opportunity to hold prior senior roles. Look for potential and ability and not just years of experience.
Promote relatively inexperienced older adults into entry-level leadership positions. Make sure that they are offered the developmental support as their younger peers. Intentional leadership development initiatives benefit leaders of all ages.
Are you looking for solutions to develop your leaders quickly? Check out our Immersive Leadership Program. (link to program overview)