Global war for talent will intensify as baby boomer leaders retire

HR Editorial , 08 May 2013


Organisations are not adequately prepared for the cultural changes that will occur as executives from the baby boomer generation retire and are replaced by their Generation X and Y counterparts, a study has found.

The study After the baby boomers: the next generation of leadership, by global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson in conjunction with Cass Business School, part of City University London, was conducted by interviewing senior executives across a wide range of industries and geographies.

Richard Boggis-Rolfe, chairman of Odgers Berndtson, said: “The retirement of the current generation of corporate leaders will lead to cultural changes that most organisations are unprepared for. In order to thrive in the post-baby boomer landscape, companies need to put serious thought and effort into smoothing the intergenerational transition for leaders from generations X and Y.”

Only 41% of respondents believed their organisations were ready for changing workplace demographics of age, gender and diversity. It was suggested companies should ease the transition to the next generation of leaders, by the current generation stepping back and focusing on mentoring up-and-coming executives.

Many respondents commented that the retirement of baby boomers from leadership positions would result in a mass exodus of talent over the next 20 years, which will intensify the global war for talent among existing executives.

Although the retirement of baby boomers will lead to a loss of some skills from the workforce, the next generation of leaders will bring their own skillsets to bear on the marketplace. Foremost among the new leadership skills will be emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility, which will be needed to attract and motivate a more diverse and mobile workforce.

This more collaborative form of leadership will be key to helping executives navigate the 21st century workforce, said the report. Corporate leaders will also need greater diverse cultural awareness due to the increasing economic importance of the BRIC and Next11 countries to many of the companies surveyed.

Already, S&P 500 companies derive nearly half of their revenue from international sources and, for many, international revenues are growing faster than their core revenues.

The ability to speak foreign languages, partly as a proxy for cultural awareness, will be increasingly important. Some 85% of respondents believed being able to speak foreign languages will be more valuable to future executives than past ones.

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Is this surprising?

Donna Stevenson 08 May 2013

Surely, the pending retirement of boomer leaders can not be a surprise to HR or senior business leaders. All they have to do is look around the executive table to note that the majority of senior leaders today are boomers. So what will organizations do to ensure their leadership expertise is transferred to the next generation of leaders? It does not bode well for our organizations in 2020 and beyond, if today we are not planning how to transfer knowledge from the current leadership generation to the next. This should one of the priorities for leaders today - seek out those potential leaders, figure out what expertise they will need for the future, then find ways to transfer that expertise.

The future is coming on.

Joanne Kelleher 10 May 2013

A relevant article concerning the transitional change agenda with regards generation X and Y. The future is coming on - now and has been in steady progress from the early 2000's with company's and organisations failing to respond to changes in the workforce demographics,of baby boomers who are ageing and not up skilling gen X and Y soon enough. The added recession has made the emotional engagement process equally difficult due to a lack of investment in training, development and mentoring - but also cultural & diversity issues have been unsupported due to a lack of emotional intelligence, flexibility and adaptability in understanding a complex environment of financial,social & political changes.So for me, the future has been coming on slowly for over ten years.

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