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Clinton Wingrove

Pilat HR Solutions

Principal Consultant

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From ‘ready now’ to ‘ready in a lifetime’ – the baby boomers are here to stay


Just when we thought the Baby Boomers were off to lower their handicaps, the fickle hand of legislation has again changed the rules. The Baby Boomers were going to retire. That would have reduced the payroll.  And, those starting their careers (who now have lower pay expectations because of the recession) would at last have got the chance of a new job or a promotion.

But not so fast.

Someone has thrown a curve-ball and the Designated Retirement Age (DRA) has been abolished!  It’s like a crazy reality TV show and the Baby Boomers aren’t being evicted; they have immunity!

Put away the golf clubs; we’re back!  But, wait a minute. What about all those succession plans that we toiled over for hours and hours? What about all the ‘ready nows?' What about all the HiPos? What about the Box 9s? Well, we had decades during which less than 40% of all succession plans were ever implemented and it now looks like it will be decades plus a few years!

Despite all the claims to the contrary, the economy is still rebalancing. Years of accumulated debt are taking their toll. The opening up of markets has proved to be a two-way street and most western countries have imported more than they have exported and many have been flooded by cheap labour. Indeed, many factors have dampened the labour market and organisations in which neither pay nor headcount have increased significantly for five or more years are numerous.

It is often said that, “it’s not the planning that’s the problem; it is carrying out the plan!” That couldn’t be truer than with succession planning. ‘Ready in a year’ candidates frequently stay that way year after year because we do little to develop them. Now, they may stay that way because there are few positions for them to take. The recession took out jobs and a prolonged recession has taught organisations how to do without them. Now, many of the ‘retire in a year’ pool may well not retire. So, promotion opportunities could be still fewer.

At the other end of the career ladder, a combination of failure to predict future needs, combined with misdirection and inadequacies in education, has led to a shortage of the technical skills we need. 

So, many companies face a difficult combination of factors. Aging workers choosing to stay, often on relatively inflated pay; restricted payrolls inhibiting rewarding younger talent; and a shortage of sufficiently skilled staff from which to recruit.

So, incoming talent is not available to allow existing staff to move on and fewer senior positions will become vacant for them to take anyway. This middle band of aspiring talent may well become frustrated.

This could be a problem but it could also be an opportunity. Organisations have struggled for years to achieve breadth. During the boom years, many people shot to the top only to struggle to comprehend the wider workings of their organisations and so fail. There is increasing evidence that it is better to gain cross-functional experience earlier than later. Now organisations may be able to capitalise on the current environment and, by means of well designed education and deployment practices:

  1. Manage employee expectations more effectively, clearly demonstrating to them the benefits of rotational moves, and thus increasing retention of top talent.
  2. Use redeployment as a primary development strategy, strengthening the talent pool.
  3. Gain higher-quality assessment data on the talent through observations across a variety of roles.
  4. Use those who may have otherwise retired as mentors and, by so doing, hand on more of their experience and also enable them to transition more effectively into retirement.
  5. Meet the work-life balance needs of those who do not seek promotion by enabling them still to have rich careers via lateral redeployment.

A combination of strategic mentoring and deployment management may well overtake succession planning as the most critical management continuity process.

2 Responses

  1. Rotation

    Thanks, jludike

    I agree – early spotting of talent and job rotation prepares them for later on.  Too many organizations leave development until late, even now.

    As you move up the ladder, you need breadth and depth to call on.


  2. Excellent

    Great pointers would merely add that many of  the HiPo's etc can and should be rotated into fast growing and or pioneering markets eg. Africa, Asia, MIddle East as mobility should be key criteria for remaining either designated high potential or leadership succession candidate.

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Clinton Wingrove

Principal Consultant

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