Workplace Culture

What’s a Succession Plan for an Aging Workforce?

By Staff Report

Jan. 7, 2014

Dear Not Getting Any Younger:

For the first time in U.S. history, four generations are working together side by side.  Many companies in the US have employees and managers in every age category from millennials (18-30+), Gen X (age 33-45+) and boomers (age 50-60+) to traditionalists (age 65-75+). The values, interests, skills, experiences and attitudes among these broadly diverse age groups create challenges for teams and managers. Internal competition, real or imagined, between younger workers building careers and older workers attempting to retain theirs is exacerbated by a tough economy in which “retirement” often is not financially feasible. With the explosion of medical, cosmetic and fitness resources, age truly is just a number, not necessarily an indicator of physical or mental impairments typically associated with aging.  Legally, age-discrimination complaints continue to be on the rise, along with disability charges often related to health issues. 

Boomers and traditionalists contribute proven expertise and decades of experience millennials and some Gen Xers don’t yet have. Companies have real concerns about the knowledge and leadership gaps they face with boomer and traditionalistturnover particularly where older workers hold positions of power, authority and strong customer relationships. 

Below are 10 actions to take or consider as you approach this important and challenging work.

·       Remove the age factor from your thinkingand any internal messages. Focus solely on the talent you need (knowledge, skills, experience) and performance criteria you require (competencies, behaviors, values) today and in the future. 

·       Refresh job descriptions and create performance profiles that include defined competencies and behaviors required for success… today.

·       Engage all employees and managers in“success planning” – creating work plans and development goals that support individual work-related interests and ambitions.

·       Engage managers and employees in supportive career discussions to understand the needs and motivations of older and younger workers at your company. Create transition strategies based on what you learn.  

·       Make succession planning a requirement for all managers, executives and key contributors. This process will identify your internal “bench strength” and will force discussions about sustainability and pro-active workforce planning. 

·       Introduce legacy-building, a concept that respects the contributions of long-term employees and engages creative thinking about what they leave behind.

·       Create affinity groups (employee resource groups) for all generational groups. Leverage the diverse perspectives of these groups for business objectives, particularly marketing and/or customer experience.

·       Identify roles for workers (any age) who may want to reduce their schedules and hours and still contribute.

·       Integrate collaboration and knowledge transfer as a fundamental requirement of every job, at every level.  

·       Develop internal mentoring and coaching rolesthat team older and younger workers in activities for knowledge sharing, collaboration and relationship building.

These actions will strengthen the engagement of all workers, provide insight for workforce strategies and may change the way you think about and value your “aging workforce”.

SOURCE:Patricia Duarte, founder and principal consultant, Decision Insight, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, Dec. 16, 2013

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