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Succession: Keep an eye out for age diversity

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HR departments seeking replacements for retiring baby boomers should resist the urge to plug a similar figure into the recently vacated hole.

Generational turnover is an opportunity for positive change. Too many employers miss that chance by choosing candidates who provide easy continuity instead of those who will carry the company into the future.

Organizations should look to their strategic plans to identify the skill sets each of their positions will need to accomplish company objectives. Those future-skills may be very different than those of your current workforce.

Note: Seeking age diversity isn’t an excuse for age discrimination. It’s a common-sense approach for placing the right people in the right jobs. Regularly audit hiring patterns to ensure you are not discriminating against applicants with protected characteristics.

Generational attitudes are another factor in the succession planning equation. A recent poll of MBA graduates found that many would take a significant pay cut if they could perform work “that makes a social or environmental difference in the world.”

Employers can tap into that spirit to gain an edge in the recruiting market. People often perform better when doing work they believe in.

Because the Gen X and millennial age cohorts are more diverse than the baby boomers who dominate the highest rungs of today’s org charts, hiring younger today means a more diverse workforce in the future.

Some companies aren’t waiting for the slow wheel of demographic change to roll over. Google, for example, trains managers and supervisors to identify the unconscious biases they may bring to the hiring decision-making process. The goal: Hiring activities that identify the right candidates to fill jobs, not replace previous job-holders.

One useful side-effect: Google’s bias identification training should help cut down on discrimination complaints and lawsuits.

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