5 Tips to Prepare for the Looming Leadership Brain Drain

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ChampAround 4 million baby boomers retire in the U.S. every year, and this is starting to leave a gap in the management layers at the top of organizations, largely because there is an insufficient amount of talent rising through the ranks to replace the boomers who leave the workforce.

H.R. and recruiting teams are now beginning to feel the effects of this retirement-induced leadership talent drain. Research from Saba and WorkplaceTrends.com shows that 30 percent of companies say they’re struggling to find senior leaders, while only 12 percent of employees even aspire to the executive ranks in the first place.

Given the situation, I thought it would be a good time to present some tips to help employers prepare for the upcoming leadership gap.

1. Who Needs Managers Anyway?

We all accept without question that companies need managers — layers upon layers of managers. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Consider the example of the holacracy, which does away with the traditional management hierarchy, allowing self-organizing teams to manage themselves.

Many organizations operate under a holacratic structure, so it is certainly doable. Of course, it takes some planning, and you can’t just ditch managers overnight. Still, moving to a holacratic structure could be one way to deal with the looming shortage of managers.

2. Start Delayering Your Organization

If your organization is overly dependent on layers and layers of management, it will be very vulnerable to the looming leadership gap. You don’t need to move to a holacracy, but maybe it’s time to begin reengineering your organization so it is less dependent on management and more focused on self-management.

3. Make Management Seem Like an Inspiring Career Option

The Saba/WorkplaceTrends.com study showed that just 12 percent of younger workers “aspire to the corner office,” meaning the leadership pipeline is drying up. I have heard it suggested that many workers don’t want to move up the corporate ladder because they are happy with their roles and they don’t want to sacrifice their work-life balance, which many believe is a necessary part of becoming a manager.

Can you improve the image of management in your organization? Perhaps better P.R. and a cool, exciting marketing initiative can make management and leadership into inspiring career options in your business.

4. Retain Your Retiring Leaders

Many workers are choosing to delay retirement and work past the traditional retirement age of 65. People are doing this for a variety of reasons: they don’t have enough retirement savings to live on, they’d like to keep their brains and bodies engaged for longer, they enjoy working, etc.

The point is that many of your baby boomer employees may want to keep working instead of retiring. It’s up to your organization to design the right programs and opportunities that give workers a chance to keep contributing to your organization, if they’re rather not retire.

5. Increase Upward Mobility Through Development and Mentoring

Many workers don’t feel they have the necessary education to move into management positions, according to a CareerBuilder study. This suggests that a great way to increase the talent within your leadership pipeline is to bring more focus to management development and succession planning within your organization. You can extend the traditional succession programs that focused only on high-potential elites and look further into the main body of the organization for the “diamonds in the rough” who just need a little education and training to become great leaders.

Read more in Succession

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.