Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bye, bye boomers

Smart organizations prepare for retirement onslaught

  • Print

The baby-boomer exit is here.

So far, it's been somewhat innocuous, with rather quiet retirements of distant corporate executives. Lloyd Robertson, lead anchor of CTV evening news for instance, stepped down a couple of years ago with barely casting a ripple. Locally, many well-known entrepreneurs and organizational leaders have quietly passed the torch to up-and-coming leaders.

It was the recent announcement of a generational shift at ABC-TV that really got my attention. At 68, Diane Sawyer, the longtime, high-profile evening news anchor was replaced by a 40-year-old. As explanation, ABC executives reported a generational shift was necessary to appeal to younger audiences. Thus, by dubbing the evening news as "a vestige of another time," Diane Sawyer was painted with the same brush and sent off to do special projects.

In the real world, not many businesses can afford to have an up-and-coming leader working as an understudy, especially for a lengthy period -- it's just too expensive. The result is a loss of corporate knowledge within many organizations and the creation of a growing leadership gap.

Couple this with the fact leadership skills needed to take organizations into the future are different than today's technical skills and management style. The U.S.-based Center for Creative Leadership says collaboration is one of the key skills missing from future leaders. In their view, collaboration is becoming more important because of the demand to do more with less accompanied in a continually changing global marketplace.

These demands will see an increased use of cross-functional teams and interdepartmental reliance as well as project teams that span across different agencies and/or corporations. Whereas, this and other skills have already been found lacking in the marketplace, the most effective solution to the problem of a lack of skills is to begin aggressively assessing and developing current internal talent.

Few companies, private and/or corporate as well as not-for-profit organizations I've encountered, have conducted a study of their workforce. This valuable exercise enables employers to map demographics, identify the level of risk for retirements and/or employee exits and identify front-line workers with the potential for personal and professional growth. Once this survey is done, businesses can develop a plan to promote from within.

I have seen the success of this type of initiative both within my own firm and clients' firms. For instance, can you imagine the corporate value provided by a front-line manufacturing worker who was identified as high potential? With a combination of in-house training and support for university accreditation, within a few years, this individual was promoted to the senior management team and stayed with the firm for many years.

Let's look at how to foster a learning culture within an organization.

Conduct a workforce analysis: This strategy will enable the identification of employees at all levels of the organization who are eligible to retire, and enable you to plan for each risk. Use it to identify individual educational status and interests and assist you to put a succession plan in place. If your organization has a human resource information system, ensure the information is kept updated so a workforce analysis is no longer required annually.

Review and refine your retention strategy: Baby boomers are likely not to retire all at once, so you need a strategy that continues to engage those who stay. This can be accommodated through part-time and contract work, as well as coaching and mentoring with emerging leaders and/or through front-line teaching assignments for technical skills.

Apply leadership talent assessments: Internet technology makes it easy to apply a psychometric assessment tool to help emerging leaders understand their skills and areas of challenge. These assessment results should be used to develop career plans as described below. As well, the assessments help managers and business owners make decisions about the hiring, recruitment and training of potential emerging leaders.

Engage in career planning: A career plan can be made for every employee. Firstly, identify the skills and competencies required in each job and create a career map to demonstrate how a candidate can progress. Make these career maps public throughout the entire organization. Help employees see where their career might lead should they develop advanced skills. For those designated as emerging leaders, meet with them to develop a concrete plan for developing their skills. This can include formal training through rotation as well as inhouse training and university/college support.

Avoid the quick fix: Corporate leaders often think the best approach to leadership training is to send their employee to an intensive five- to 10-day learning program. However, in my experience, you'll find that shortly after being back to work, the program binders are sitting on a shelf. The individual is left without a coach and/or a program colleague with whom to test out assumptions and to try new strategies learned in the program.

Create, progressive development programming: Research has proven the best approach to learning is being able to apply one's newly learned skills at the earliest opportunity, accompanied by personal coaching and feedback. Programs that offer this approach are typically held every few weeks during a six-month period. While the programs can be delivered individually, the best approach is a group setting in which individuals can share personal experiences and success strategies and gain assistance on problems. Usually, this support group will exist long after the program is over.

Wise business owners avoid getting caught without the leadership skills and resources needed for success.


Source: Winnipeg Free Press, ABC Replaces Diane Sawyer on Evening News; June 26, 2014Avoid the Baby Boomer Gap - Invest in new leaders today, Maureen Moriarty, Seattle PI, 2007; Passing the Torch: 5 Steps for turning baby boomer brain drain into a brain trust, Rip Kelly, UNC Executive Development, 2011.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed. Barbara is President of Legacy Bowes Group and president of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2014 H1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Trouba talks about injury and potential for Jets

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Water lilys are reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google