14
Jul

X, Y, Z … Boom! How will Changing Demographics Impact Corporate Culture?

Are you ready?

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

Full transparency: I am a baby boomer. Born right in the middle of the largest generation–until Millennials. For many of my generation, retirement is a dirty word; it’s an inevitability to be delayed as long as possible. As a group, Baby Boomers have been fighting aging since we turned 30! After all we weren’t supposed to trust anyone over 30 until, of course, we became 30 ourselves and realized we were just getting started.

All kidding and old jokes aside, the reality is that 10,000 Boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2029. Retirement has already started for many and isn’t that far off for more than half of the Baby Boom generation. My children, Millennials that they are, are probably saying “Finally! What’s taking you so long?” But the sheer volume of pending retirements is staggering and prompts the question how will the obvious “changing of the guard” affect corporate life?

Demographers and business historians estimate that Baby Boomers currently hold 56% of corporate leadership positions. Additionally, two-thirds of all businesses (about 4 million companies) are owned by Baby Boomers. Yet, according to a survey of Fortune 1000 employers, and of critical importance to business in general, 62% of Fortune 1000 employers believe that Baby Boomer retirements will result in a skilled labor shortage sometime in the next five years. In the next 5 years! How is this possible? What should people and companies be doing to prepare for a potential gap in skills? Are companies and their mid-career managers (Gen X and Gen Y) prepared for corporate memory to walk out the door?

Truth be told, with each generation there is always a need for new and fresh perspectives. Somehow it is a lot easier to swallow that new idea when you are on the younger end of the continuum espousing it rather than on the side that finds itself thinking “been there done that”!  Yet companies and managers are going to have to creatively manage the knowledge transfer required as the current generation of executives makes room for the next generation.

Partial retirement or flexible working arrangements–typically a two-year offer with reduced hours and benefits–is one way companies are exploring the retention of certain levels of management so their knowledge can be shared with those next in line for their pay grade. Reverse mentoring, popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welsh, matches senior executives with 20 and 30-somethings to share experiences. Reverse mentoring closes the knowledge gap for both older and younger age groups and can identity future leaders. Succession planning prepares others internally to assume key business positions. Encore consultancy – when a person “retires” on Friday yet returns on Monday as a part-time consultant for the job they just left – has caught on in some organizations. Are these enough? Are companies paying attention to what corporate life will be like after a generation of workers retire?

I distinctly remember going to my father’s retirement party. Lots of people I’d never met before talking about a side of my dad that I never really knew at home. It was quite enlightening to hear that your dad–the guy who fell asleep on the couch waiting up for you–was a person others looked up to and respected. I don’t think a lot of companies “do” retirement parties anymore. My dad worked for the same company for 37 years. That kind of tenure is almost unheard of now. When I retire, even though I’ve been in the same industry for over 30 years, I’ll have worked at the same company for about 12 years. Certainly not worthy of a full blown celebration. But party or no party, over the course of the next fifteen years, one very large generation, used to setting standards for how things get done (Baby Boomers), is about to retire and be replaced by an even larger generation (Gen Y/Millennials) in the early to middle stage of their careers. Are we ready?

More
3
Nov

What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

what-would-you-tell-your-younger-self

By Donna Taglione, Vice President

A recent project reminded me that we all learn from our own life experiences. Earlier this year I moderated a series of focus groups with people who had retirement investment products – Roth IRAs, 401Ks, and brokerage accounts. These groups were segmented demographically by age.

Some groups were with people in the early phases of their career trying to balance retirement savings with new house purchases and babies. Others were mid-career, worried about their own savings but mega-concerned about how to save for their children’s college education. Still others were divided into two categories – five years away from retirement and those recently retired.

The most interesting question I asked during these sessions was “what advice would you give your younger self?” Having listened to some heartfelt responses across the groups, and having read posts in the Huffington Post, on the BBC, and even E!Online, all of which asked versions of the same question, I decided to do what market researchers do best and ask a broader group – our staff – the same question.

Generationally, we have all the major demographic segments covered at Morpace: Millennials (1982-2004), Gen X (1965-1981), Boomers (1946-1964), and a few on the youngest end of the Greatest Generation (1930-1946).

What I learned was interesting…

My financial focus group participants overwhelmingly advised “don’t underestimate the power of compounding,” not surprising given the topics we covered. In other words, invest as much as you can beginning with your first job – you won’t miss money you don’t see. It was their version of the Ronco advertisements touting “set it and forget it!”

The overarching theme from my Morpace internal query was gratitude. Regardless of age, Morpace employees advised their younger selves to appreciate what they have in the moment. This appreciation might be for something as simple as free time – the ability to come and go as one pleases before the demands of a job, a partner, and/or children. It certainly includes appreciating family, especially grandparents since they love nothing more than spending time with their family.

Directly linked with gratitude was kindness to one’s self and others. Kindness includes not only being nice, but standing up for those that are picked on. Most everyone can recall a middle school or high school group that left them feeling excluded and, with the wisdom of hindsight, realized maybe the “cool clique” wasn’t so cool after all.

Gratitude and kindness were followed closely by versions of “this too will pass.” There is an old expression – the rearview mirror has 20/20 vision – meaning everything is clearer when you can look back on it, when the drama of the moment is replaced by perspective. Several mentioned learning the benefits of patience – patience to let dramatic situations play out without jumping to conclusions – of learning to pause, reflect, and wait before judging a person you barely know.

Confidence and trusting one’s own instincts are important pieces of younger self advice. We must learn to own our decisions – the good, the bad and the ugly – acknowledge what happened, and move on. Things are not always someone else’s fault.

Interestingly, there is a longing for some youthful chutzpah. Moving away from home – you can always come back. Trying a different career. Taking chances. (I loved this one: “Dye your hair the funkiest color imaginable. If you wait until you’re in your 20’s to do it, it won’t fit with your job. And if you wait until your 80’s, people will think you are senile!”)

Our collective advice to our younger selves was to be less concerned about failing and become more fearless than fearful. We’d all be wise to think like Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work!” – or to remember Henry Ford’s advice: “Failure is simply the opportunity [emphasis added] to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Whether financially, as in my focus groups, or in life, fearing less seems to be good advice regardless of age. Our younger selves might have benefited from that advice, but our current selves can too!

More