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Herb Niles on sales & management: As time flies by, is a turnover tidal-wave approaching?

January 8, 2008
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Wow, another year has come and gone, proving it seems, that the older one gets the faster time goes. Last year certainly ended with some excitement with the 3M acquisition of Aearo, Showa acquiring Best Glove, Bacou-Dalloz changing its name to Sperian, and Hagemeyer NA apparently being sold to Sonepar SA. Those developments suggest it’s a good time to be an investment banker, management consultant or printing/packaging provider.

While it remains to be seen what impact those developments will have on the market, one thing is pretty certain: changing dynamics in the age of the workforce will create challenges for hiring companies to find qualified candidates for their openings.

Into the sunset
According to Bruce King, writing in a recent issue of Recruiting and Staffing magazine, “70 million baby boomers are retiring or will shift to a more independent career while businesses and government step up the competition for the 45 million available workers.”

Complicating this fact is the sense that corporate culture is becoming a challenging factor as younger workers bring new life values into the picture. King says, “These workers are predicted to be the highest maintenance workforce this country has ever seen. Recent studies have found them to be independent, self-motivated, less team-oriented and resistant to constructive criticism. They will demand ongoing personal development to fuel their career advancement and will display limited company loyalty.”

Assuming all of this is true, it is certainly a mixed bag of some positive traits and some less desirable. At the same time, loyalty is a two-way street, and while companies expect it they don’t always reciprocate.

Replacing lost talent
But I digress. How are companies replacing lost talent with qualified replacements?

Some companies are pioneering policies to make the workplace more friendly to older workers. “I think we’re beginning to see a broader range of options and opportunities for mature workers,” says Diane Pitkalis, a specialist in older worker issues with the Conference Board, a business research organization. This is an area where there’s just enormous room for creativity in terms of how companies can adapt.”

For example, in the three million member federal workforce, 6 of 10 employees could retire over the next decade, prompting a recent proposal to lure retirees back to work with financial incentives. In the private sector, CVS pharmacies has more than 1,000 older workers take part in a snow-bird program that allows them to migrate between stores in different parts of the country as seasons change. So folks like pharmacist Bill Duclos (80 years old) shifts his part-time summer job in Massachusetts to a CVS store in Florida when he heads south for the winter.

CVS benefits because the Florida stores are busier in the winter and they can be staffed with part-time, experienced workers in the peak season. Managers at CVS say there’s another benefit: The older workers sometimes are friendlier to customers and have a better work ethic than younger counterparts.

“It gives us a competitive advantage,” said Steve King, director of government affairs for CVS, which began the snowbird program as part of a broader initiative to hang on to older employees. “If we don’t continue to recruit and train and retrain our older people, we won’t have a business. We rely on them. We need them.”

You do not need to be the Government or a Fortune 500 company to find a way to utilize the experience of older workers.

Options and more options
One of my golfing buddies, a sales pro in the fastener business, retired at age 72 and moved to Henderson, Nev., a couple years ago. Realizing he could only play so much golf and getting a bit bored, Ed walked a trade show in Las Vegas earlier this year to visit with some of his old contacts.

He came away with four or five job offers and now has a part-time job calling on some of his former accounts in Nevada and southern California.

I recently visited with a college classmate who owns an electrical distribution business. While there, I met a gentleman who had been Lee’s sales manager and recently retired from the business after 50 years. To ease into retirement Jack signed on as a consultant and runs regular product training sessions for their customers and employees. So Jack stays as involved as he wants and the company benefits from an experienced, respected professional to help build goodwill with customers and build a knowledge base for new hires.

As we look forward to another year, we can be sure of a few things: Death, taxes, change and the fact that another year will absolutely fly by. So live each day fully and make it a great 2008!

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