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The abolition of the DRA and current economic uncertainty is creating an increasingly multi-generational workforce, but what impact is this having on succession planning? Jane Kirk, Director at Armstrong Craven, offers a new perspective where behaviours and values drive strategy, irrespective of age.

The fear was that removing the DRA would cause role blocking; leaving following generations frustrated and unable to progress up the career ladder. Research among business and HR leaders reveals that because most organisations are short on talent, they are embracing older workers who provide valuable skills and experience which both support business performance and aid knowledge transfer “The focus is on building the talent pool and management capabilities, it is therefore a positive if older generations, who are performing, stay longer with the company,” explains Richard Wells, Chief HR Officer Gate Group. Of course, a multi-generational workforce presents its own challenges in terms of effective succession planning and is made all the more complex by a rapidly-evolving business platform.

Businesses can’t always predict what skills they might need in the future, so different patterns are emerging, not only around how talent is assessed but also the models used to evaluate and plan. The main focus, however, is on defining the key characteristics that make a business successful, then seeking people with these behaviours and values. At global communications group Havas, for example, a passion for ideas and learning combined with an ability to adapt underpins its search for talent. This engenders a much more age-neutral attitude, where the creative process and outcomes drive collaboration across generations. “A young strategist is a digital native while the baby boomer might know how to build big brand ideas, so both respect each other’s contribution and it helps them work inclusively because together they can create more powerful content,” explains Russ Lidstone, CEO Havas Worldwide.

However, as Hazel Carter-Showell, Managing Director CarterCorson, points out; “Today success is often rooted in how a leader interacts with others to achieve results.” She advocates models that focus on interdependent behaviours required by a business; “If you are an organisation that values relationships, for example, you’d want to measure emotionally intelligent negotiating, rather than emotional intelligence and negotiation separately. If you value profits more and are not so concerned with how the outcome is achieved, just negotiating may be the priority.” As a result, many organisations are increasingly adopting a blended assessment strategy to remove bias and deliver a clear picture of talent and workforce patterns. 360 reviews, described as “the Trip Advisor of the HR World” by Carter-Showell, work alongside HR metrics and data analysis to help assess outcomes against performance, engagement and retention.

Recognising different expectations of each generation and creating an environment where they can thrive is also an important part of current thinking. Millennials live at home longer and need nurturing, Generation Y are more independent, career-driven and financially oriented, whereas high-performing Baby Boomers need encouragement to stay in the workforce to fill widening skills gaps. So interventions tailored to each age demographic and designed to strengthen engagement are an emerging trend. “There needs to be a focus on both retention and re-attraction, such as creating corporate alumni programmes for Millennials and Baby Boomers. Providing mentoring to Millennials can help knowledge transfer, while developing programmes that allow phased retirement or a new consulting role creates goodwill and opportunity to retain knowledge. Now is the time to act because once the economy recovers Millennials and older workers are likely to leave,” advises Neddy Perez, VP Global Diversity and Inclusion Ingersoll Rand.

This dynamic approach to succession planning does require a re-think of traditional practices as Robert Ritchie, head of Global HR Gazprom Energy, points out; “It isn’t a tick box exercise, but needs to be in the moment. Create the environment to play to people’s strengths, forget about the rounded person, and engage different talent and skills. If they know you are interested in harnessing their talent, you get rewards and they feel included and valued.” Not all sectors can be as progressive. More traditional organisations struggle to create such agile and adaptive workforces; utilities and manufacturing companies are technically based and need certain competencies. It may also be necessary to pipeline talent from outside an organisation to refresh, replenish and grow. What is evident, however, is a clear sense of urgency. Age is not the issue, rather an awareness that action is needed to ensure companies have the diversity of talent needed to perform now and in the future.

Jane Kirk, Director
Armstrong Craven

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