You’ve got a problem: your executives are all “baby boomers” and about to hit retirement. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the lower executive ranks are also filled with boomers, and they aren’t likely to stay on, either. They aren’t just walking out the door with their gold watches, either: they’re going to take with them the cumulative knowledge necessary to run your business.
Think that you can avoid it? If you work for a large company, you’re just dreaming. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 76 million people will leave the US workforce within the next five years. These “baby boomers” will also put extraordinary strains on the social welfare system for retirees in America, including corporate programs.
You have a plan to address your ballooning pension requirements. Are you planning for the implosion of your executive office? As these positions become empty, highly qualified staff will be able to write their own tickets, commanding massive salary and benefit increases. If your company can’t keep up with them you won’t have a chance in the job hunters’ market.
What can you possibly do?
The good news is that for large companies there is a simple and easy way to create a large pipeline of younger staff with the capacity to do these jobs. If you’re a company willing to take on this program, the better news is that your competitors will never do it.
Want to know why?
Because it takes mining the high-flier gold in your lower ranks.
In every large company I’ve consulted to, I’ve been able to find numerous very high-potential individuals who have gotten stuck in the lower ranks. These people have the capacity to do executive level work but need training and development to have the capability. These people missed the “tap” to be the next executives, and are stuck working for managers who are “smaller” than they are, who have smaller work capacities.
That’s why you can’t trust your lower level managers to bring them to your attention. Managers are incapable of seeing overperformance within a role and have a tendency to see these higher capacity persons as “attitude problems”.
You will have to put a system in place for identifying them and getting them built up to being effective managers. I’ve done this for my clients in the past, and there are certainly several others in the field who have done it on an even larger scale, including PeopleFit and MVC International. What’s amazing is that with proper training, many of these intractable “attitude problems” (as Michelle Malay Carter calls them) become sterling executives, dedicated to the company and with strong knowledge of the actual operations since, as one-time low level employees, they know how things actually get done and who actually does it.
The risk here is that grabbing someone from the lower ranks can cause some severe political problems if your company has had strict promotion ladders. There are ways of addressing this (The Manasclerk Company has put together a few itself) but they all take courage and leadership. It may be that your competitors are too weak to mine their lower ranks. Which means that you can do it for them and get industry-experienced executive trainnees at rock-bottom prices.
Because, as I’ve said before, we’re the killer app.