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Talent Management Faces A New Challenge

December 7, 2010

In recent years, talent surveys have often shown an aging workforce. Those undertaken by IACCM have confirmed this is the case in areas such as Procurement, Contract and Commercial Management. Senior managers have expressed concern about the availability of future skills and capabilities as many of their seasoned practitioners approach retirement.

Yet how different the world – and the challenge before us – now looks. This summary from a recent report by Wharton Business School captures the point nicely:

“The aging of the global population is changing the face of retirement. The combination of increased longevity, distressed pension funds and economic hard times is causing people to remain in the workforce longer than ever and forcing governments to raise retirement ages around the world. By 2050, nearly one third of those living in developed countries will be age 60 or older, according to the United Nations, up sharply from less than 12% in 1950.

Yet this is only part of the story. In the United States, many members of the baby boom generation want to work past the traditional retirement age of 65 for the personal fulfillment that employment brings. Such views are replacing the notion of retirement as extended leisure that became popular in the last century, thanks to the advent of Social Security and private defined benefit pension plans that are now being phased out of the workplace.”

So what will this mean?

Increasingly, the concerns facing managers may be how to find growth opportunities fro younger employees who now feel stifled by the older members of staff; we may also hear complaints about the resistance to change among this ‘old guard’.  Introducing new methods, new technologies, new working practices could prove difficult in a generation tha managed work in quite different ways from today’s technology-literate newcomers.

The answer appears likely to  lie in careful consideration of the ways that generational skills and attitudes can be effectively blended. For example, if the younger generation likes technology and the broader networking this offers, then they may excel at handling specific types of research and particular segments of the customer or supplier base. The older, retained staff may be quite happy to relinquish people-management tasks and instead combine their physical relationship skills with mentoring and advisory services to the business and their younger colleagues.  For example, they may make excellent Supplier Relationship Managers or key account negotiators.

At present, management thinking does not appear to have caught up with the new realities of a post-financial crisis world. It had better move fast – because those new realites are very much with us.

One Comment
  1. The issue highlighted in thsi post was confirmed by a report in USA Today on December 15th. It highlighted that employees aged over 55 are now at record levels and continuing to grow as a percentage of the employed workforce. It also showed that for those under 24, the percentage in employment is at a record low.

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