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May 14, 2013 / Mervyn Dinnen

Cries for Help from the Boomer Organisations

Regular readers will know that there are certain things that raise the hackles here at T Recs, amongst them are:

Hence it will come as no surprise that HR Magazine’s ‘Global war for talent will intensify as baby boomer leaders retire’ scored a complete full house on Merv’s bullshit bingo scorecard.

Not sure what’s more frustrating…that an executive search firm felt the need to release this self-serving guff or that a respected online news resource felt obliged to re-print the press release in the name of ‘journalism’.

So we have a search firm commissioning a report – the grandly titled ‘After the baby boomers; The next generation of leadership’ – which was conducted through telephone interviews with 100 senior executives between 2010 and 2012. I’m guessing that some of the 2010 conversations may be a little out of date now.

There is an executive summary of findings which contains sections with titles like:

  • The war for talent will intensify
  • Most organisations underserve female markets
  • The feminisation of leadership
  • Organisations need to ease the intergenerational transition

The opening statement is:

Should it matter to our future leadership that the world is undergoing unprecedented demographic, gender and cultural change? Or that a whole cohort of leadership, characterised by the baby boomer era, is about to step down? Is it possible for organisations to be ‘prepared’ for such fundamental changes and adapt to a different style f management? Or, as one respondent said about the next generation of leaders, “They may think about the world in a different way but that doesn’t make them poor leaders.

And the conclusion is:

To continue to thrive, organisations must:

  • Transfer knowledge, by coaching, mentoring and codification.
  • Re-evaluate their organisational structure, including their incentive philosophy, and how they recruit and retain talent.
  • Build cultural awareness, designing leadership programmes that develop cultural diversity, flexibility and people skills.

I’m sure it’s a comfort to have Odgers around to help out, given that the next few years will clearly be the first time since before the industrial revolution that business leaders come up to retirement age and hand over to younger leaders. I’ll bet they’re glad that it’s been pointed out to them that they need to be grooming their new leaders, no doubt an easy thing to overlook when you’re running a large organisation.

Apparently only 41% of those interviewed thought their organisations ready ‘for the changing workplace demographics of age, gender and diversity’ but then a closer examination of the report shows only 9% believing their businesses to be not ready. (More scaremongering).

Now if you’ll allow me some generational stereotyping of my own, firms like Odgers and Deloittes (who authored the Gen Y research written about in my last blog) are, shall we say, Boomer organisations. They seem to have an unhealthy obsession with how different young people are.

And if the earlier section headings are anything to go by, women too. They even make a point in the introduction of mentioning that 30% of the leaders spoken to were women, whilst the use of the word ‘feminisation‘ to describe emotional intelligence and people skills is telling.

The generation of 45+year old business leaders have been well served by these Boomer organisations. They’ve found staff for them, helped them in their own careers, come in to do consulting around new projects and structures, and maybe, just maybe, those Boomer organisations are beginning to feel the winds of change themselves.

The next generation of business leaders may well have found shiny new ways to source talented staff, promote their own careers, and check the viability and feasibility of new projects and structures.

So maybe these attempts at creating a perceived problem for their core markets, that requires a solution that they can then help provide, are really just cries for help?

Here’s the blueprint – identify a problem with the young, developing workforce. Legitimise and amplify it by dressing the problem up as research or with a white paper (involving an academic or another Boomer organisation for extra effect) then offer simple solutions worded in a complex, serious way so that only by using your services will they be able to fully grasp and implement what needs to be done.

Well, you know something… I’m guessing most successful business leaders know this stuff already and know what needs to be done… and the younger, emerging leaders have a fairly good idea where to start cutting the budgets.

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