The Demographic Management Time Bomb
04 Apr 2016

The Demographic Management Time Bomb

categories: Leadership, Leadership Development, Learning methodology, Teamwork & Team Building

There’s a demographic problem afflicting business. Put simply, the Millennials are taking over the reins as the Baby Boomers retire: and there are less people in the new generation. The Boom is bust.

Couple that issue with the increased mobility in the job market and the tendency for people to be promoted quicker, and you have a situation that concerns HR Directors and Learning & Development Managers. In a recent survey, 56% of them agreed that this new breed is “not ready to meet leadership needs”.  (Source: Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2016)

Part of the problem is created by traditional pyramid-shaped corporate structures where at each level, one manages many. To quote the survey’s authors, this model is “simply not producing leaders fast enough to keep up with the demands of business and the pace of change“.  They pulled out the following Global Factors as being critical –

1. Millennials
These now represent over 50% of the workforce. Many Baby Boomers are working longer than their forebears, into their 70s and 80s – but usually on reduced salaries and hours, in a consultancy or mentoring capacity.

2. Digital Technology
This includes the newly transparent labour market, fuelled by Glassdoor, Facebook and LinkedIn. Firms have to market themselves much more effectively to hire then keep good staff.

3. The Rate of Change
Especially noted was the seeming increase in so-called ‘Black Swan’ events – low probability/high impact occurrences that require agility and rapid response.

4. New Social Contract
Or “you don’t own me” – nearly one third of the US workforce are now freelance contractors, part timers, home workers, consultants or casuals (and this increasing trend is similar elsewhere). The management and motivation of these groups brings new challenges.

All of these factors require a new way of managing, which is more team-based, task-focused, consensual and collaborative.

Culturally-Specific Learning

This was a worldwide survey: and it certainly raises universal issues. We have created experiential learning systems to help equip managers for the new environment. For example, ProfitAbility with its local partners recently carried out a business simulation entitled TCS (The Change Simulation) with Saudi Arabian executives.  As we always do, we had personalised the experiential learning process to their particular business and cultural environment. The core of the game is that teams manufacture an actual product – a self-designed greeting card – not a symbolic one, unlike some other simulations. Internally, participants have to secure the collaboration of other departments: and externally they must be aware, throughout the team, of what customers want from the product.

Note that in this process, we create an uncomfortably harsh environment for the individuals and we don’t ever give them the solution – so by working out issues for themselves and achieving progressively better outcomes, they learn lessons that stay with them for the long term. The feedback was outstanding:

“Exceptional way of information delivery”
“I will use every skill acquired in this efficient workshop”
“We were all engaged in the process”
“Great, wonderful and fulfilling”
“Full of practical experience which will be memorable”

As you might imagine, the Talent Development Manager was particularly pleased, writing that “this exceptional level of engagement of all attendees has been the headline of our company”.

Addressing the Key Issues

To borrow the Deloitte phrase, HR heads need to evolve from being ‘chief talent executives’ to ‘chief employee experience officers’. Employee engagement and motivation is at the top of their agenda. In the 2016 survey, HR leaders nominated these issues as being ‘very important”:

Leadership 89%
Culture 86%
Engagement 85%
Learning 84%

It should be noted that in 2015, Culture and Engagement were scored together and were the leading topic: they still would be so today.

Therefore, to address these concerns, ProfitAbility develops courses which deeply engage Millennials, and allow them to internalise the learning such that they automatically take it back and use it in the workplace. They cover –

• Strategic Alignment & Execution
• Leadership
• Change
• Business & Financial Acumen
• Teamwork

These are all hands-on experiences and it is really important that Heads of Learning & Development and HR see and feel what it is like to be immersed in the business simulations that we provide. We arrange free one-day ‘taster sessions’ in London, where in the company of other L&D professionals you can try out three of our games. Register here to secure one of the limited places at the next sesison. And please contact me – – to discuss your specific people management issues.

Brian Helweg-Larsen is co-founder of ProfitAbility, the leading innovator in experiential learning

For more insight into what we do, check out our infographics page.

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