flowing motion

Succession Planning: Goodbye Baby Boomers, Hello Gen Y

Posted on: September 7, 2009

Weak succession planning has led to weakness in the management chain

I was sitting in the office of a thirties-something – a young, dynamic and intelligent man.

We noted that in many firms there is a horrible gap between the Baby Boomers and the next level. Sometimes there is a gap of 20 to 30 years.  Do you see that gap in your company? Grey hair – a long gap – slightly inexperienced manager?

If there is any succession planning, it is certainly not evident.

Generational demographics

The breaks in the chain are largely a function of demographics – the number of babies who were born.

Baby Boomers, as the name suggests, are many. They are also used to dominating politics with their votes, and dictating taste with their purchasing power.

Gen X are few. Generally, while Boomers had 3 siblings, they had none. They are outnumbered by Boomers at least 2:1. Known as the latch-key kids, they are used to cleaning up the world after the Boomers have swanned-through. They are the unseen generation.

Gen Y are more numerous and are having more children than themselves.

Can we mend the breaks in the chain?

The gap between those in charge now, and those in charge tomorrow, is horrible. It even became an issue in the American Presidential election. “Obama is too young (47!) and has too little experience”, people cried. The gulf is much bigger in business.

How will the mantle of leadership be handed on from Boomers to Gen X or Gen Y?

I wanted to know how my young friend thought change would come about.

He smiled and said: “One day, one of them will go out to play golf. And his friends will follow.”

All over in day?

How will the mantle of leadership be passed from one generation to another in your industry? And what will be the consequences?

Chaos from lack of skill and exposure? A breath of fresh air?

What are the elements of succession planning with these unusual demographics before us?

How will the generation shift affect you?  Good or bad?  And if it is sudden, will it be in your favor, or not?

UPDATE:  Perhaps we can begin by not slagging off Gen Y, be reopening management training schools and having explicit policies to pass on the mantle of leadership?

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4 Responses to "Succession Planning: Goodbye Baby Boomers, Hello Gen Y"

Morning Jo. Mark & I are interested in your post. We thought this “gap” was a Zimbabwean peculiarity – a result of our history. In light of your observations we wonder if there is a link between recession/depression and this generation “gap”. World War 1 and the following flu epidemic created a similar gap … different reasons and was then followed by the Great Depression. Is this merely a curiosity and coincidence?

Hi Gaye – interesting observation – it could well be. Top guys didn’t understand what the specialists were doing.

I’ll float it around.

Interesting blog, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X). Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press’ annual Trend Report forecast the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. Here’s a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones: http://generationjones.com/2009latest.html

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