Inflection Point – Tenure Without Age

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

As Baby Boomers ponder retirement there is the inevitable associated question “what do I do next”?

A CNBC segment once referred to retirement planning as the “no huddle offense”.  Essentially there is a need to accelerate not only the economic preparation for retirement: but also the determinants as to how one will spend their time.

Tammy Erickson’s multiple books on shifting demographics particularly What’s Next Generation X?, and Dr. Lynda Gratton’s recent book The 100 Year Life forcefully remind us that traditional perspectives regarding retirement and career management are outmoded.

The need to reflect and plan is now being “down-aged” (late 40’s to early 50’s) to encompass long serving incumbents whom began working with their present employers at an early age.

If you put yourself in the position of one of these incumbents a thought process encompasses the following:

  • I started with this company right out of school
  • I am 48 years old
  •  like the company they have been good to me
  • I like my role and feel I am making a contribution BUT!!!!
  • I wonder what it would be like to work somewhere else AND!!!!
  • I need to decide new before it is too late

For those of us in our 60’s 48 is young.  However I would assert that none of us felt that way when we were 48!

The inherent problems with the above reflections are a. the employee may leave a good situation, just for the sake of leaving and b. the company is at risk of a brain drain at the nexus point of identification of future leaders and sustainability.

Engagement surveys, while informative, do not drill down sufficiently beyond are “are you happy now”?  In addition those whom are struggling with this dilemma are most likely reflecting privately.

Discussion Partner’s in researching our recent book Inflection Points-Risk Readiness Failure Fearless on career decision points began to become aware this phenomenon.

DPC perceived the issue to be a serious risk to our client population whom have longer serving employees.  Consequently using the mantra of “it is better to be supportive than short-sighted” we have been piloting a Coaching interdiction with several companies whom fit the above profile.

The offering Trajectory Advisory Service focuses on asking and answering the question for those in their late 40’s with approximately 20 years enterprise tenure, “is this company and role sufficiently challenging and engaging that you want to stay”?

DPC began piloting this offering in mid 2016 and have worked with 90 clients to date.

The findings are 10-fold based upon the admittedly modest sample:

  1. 100% of those with whom we worked admitted to having given “serious thought” to making a change
  2. 100% of those with whom we worked although initially skeptical appreciated the proactivity of their company providing resources to assist in their decision making
  3. 90+% were applying loose criteria to their thought process focused more on “now” vs. “where or why”
  4. Approximately the same % felt the restraint on making an informed decision was due more to “what if I don’t like it” vs. the transition being a sensible career move
  5.  81 of the 90 clients decided to stay with their present employer
  6. The 9 clients with whom DPC worked on a “soft landing” whereby the company was able to secure a replacement in advance of separation and the departing member was supported in their search (search firms, references, time to interview etc.)
  7. For those 81 whom have chosen to remain each was provided an enterprise supported Engagement Driver as a “safety valve” to reinforce the prudence of their decision making
  8. The range of “Drivers” encompassed new role, new location, NGO participation, Commercial Board sponsorship, paid sabbatical, education, reconfigured work hours as well as some innovative solutions
  9. None of the 81 clients received additional nor special compensation for what I would invoke as the obvious reasons

The #10 Finding from the Pilot is that 65% of those with whom DPC worked indicated they would have left in large part due to curiosity and feelings of intellectual stagnation.

The overarching conclusion DPC derived from this effort to date as that organizations that have the above profile are best served by being proactive, supportive, and sincere in working their incumbents or run the risk of being controlled by vs. controlling their Talent Readiness posture due to unanticipated and undesired departures.

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