Bye bye, baby boomers. Hello, workplace chaos

When all the baby boomers have left the building, British business will be ill-equipped to survive, reckons a new report by Odgers Berndtson and Cass Business School.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Baby boomers are retiring all across the UK, leaving a new generation to take up their mantles. Unfortunately, organisations simply aren't adequately prepared for the cultural changes that will occur, a study has found.

The report 'After the baby boomers: the next generation of leadership' reveals that 68% of the 100 senior executives interviewed believe their companies are over-dependent on male baby boomer CEOs and will not be able to adapt to the needs of the new digital generations X and Y. Many respondents also reckon that the retirement of these baby boomers from leadership positions will result in a mass exodus of talent over the next 20 years, which will intensify the global war for talent among existing executives.

It's a talentocalypse.

This could be a slight excess of doom-mongering, of course. While the retirement of baby boomers will lead to a loss of some skills from the workforce, the next generation of leaders should bring their own new skills to the marketplace.

According to the study, foremost among the new leadership skills will be emotional intelligence, people skills, and flexibility. Together, these skills will give rise to a more collaborative workplace and be 'key to helping executives navigate the 21st Century workforce', says the study. Basically, UK firms will be still be effective, they will just have to find new, modern ways of working to keep the young Turks interested.

Richard Boggis-Rolfe, Chairman of Odgers Berndtson, says: 'The retirement of the current generation of corporate leaders will lead to cultural changes that most organisations are unprepared for. In order to thrive in the post-baby boomer landscape, companies need to put serious thought and effort into smoothing the intergenerational transition for leaders from generations X and Y.'

There are a number of other big changes on the horizon for UK business too. According to those surveyed, the increasing economic importance of the BRIC and Next11 countries will make the ability to speak foreign languages much more important: 85% of respondents believe that being able to speak foreign languages will be more valuable to future executives than past ones. Already, S&P 500 companies derive nearly half of their revenue from international sources and, for many, international revenues are growing faster than their core revenues.

Professor Cliff Oswick, Deputy Dean of Cass Business School, says: 'The increasing diversity of the global workforce will need to be taken into account by corporate leaders. Cultural awareness will be at a premium and leaders will have to cultivate emotional intelligence and be better attuned to gender differences.'

Click here to watch a video of Richard Boggis-Rolfe, chairman of Odgers Berndtson, and Professor Cliff Oswick, deputy dean of Cass Business School, discussing the findings of the report.


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