Closing the generational transition gap

It is the Millennials who are supposed to be the generation filled with angst. But it would seem that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are not without their insecurities as well, especially in the current climate, according to a new study.

The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) surveyed more than 850 senior executives around the world, across industries and geographies, on the generational transition of leadership from Baby Boomers to Gen X and Millennials. Respondents were asked: how could the next generation of leaders help them to overcome top business challenges?; how are they attracting and retaining next generation talent?; and how are they preparing the next generation to lead their organisations?

The New Wave: Next Generation Executive Talent report revealed a “heightened degree” of anxiety as senior executives worldwide try to keep pace in a climate of uncertainty and lightning fast change. They are: concerned about delivering revenue growth amid widespread and constant disruption; anxious about their key successors; and are struggling to actualise enterprise-wide digital transformation.

The findings seem to suggest that senior executives are not feeling as supported or confident as they might be by- and in the generations below them. But does this say more about the top tier or those in the middle and still ascending the career ladder? While it’s not our place to surmise, it could in some cases be due to a culture clash between the generations.

AESC points out that C-suite executives understand the imperative for “agile and entrepreneurial leadership” that can shake up old approaches to business and are looking to next generation talent to drive change. They rank “leading change” as the principal leadership attribute of next generation talent that could deliver competitive advantage to organisations.

And while cautious, they are optimistic about leveraging new opportunities with the next generation leaders. “While today’s business leaders increasingly realise in order to attain competitive advantages their businesses require, they must create an environment where they can attract, develop and retain the leaders of the future,” says Karen Greenbaum, president and CEO, AESC.

Agile Consultation

It seems there is certainly a will to ensure next generation talent move into leadership positions and bring the kind of change that is required but perhaps some of the C-suite are struggling with the way in which it is done?

Rialto has championed the importance of culture change for several years now and it is taking on even more significance in the era of digital transformation. But while it is about creating the right culture and environment for the younger generations to thrive and fulfil their potential, it is also about understanding and accepting the culture differences that might exist between the generations.

Such a deduction is certainly not rocket science. But just as 40- or 50-something year-old parents are unwilling or unable to understand why a particular issue is important to their teenage children then, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that this happens in the workplace, too, and can stymie generational handovers.

The current C-suite has to appreciate the differing expectations and motivations of those generations below them otherwise, even if they can attract them to their organisations, they are unlikely to retain them. And the risk is that real talent will find opportunities to grow into the leaders of tomorrow elsewhere, which could even be at a competitor.

So C-suite, perhaps it is time to drop the angst, embrace the strengths as well as what you might perceive as the weaknesses of the next generations, and devise a talent strategy that will ensure the organisation is in good shape for generations to come.



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