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Where Is Tomorrow’s Management Talent?

By: Sharon Birkman Fink, President and CEO, Birkman International
Posted: July 24, 2009

The recession has shaken much conventional wisdom while giving rise to new clichés. One observation heard with increasing frequency is that economic turmoil will force Baby Boomers to postpone their retirements–or, perhaps, will keep them from even being able to retire at all. This is a short-sighted reaction to recent events, and ignores the long-term demands both of business strategy and of demographics. Whether because of job mobility or simply the ongoing need for innovative thinking, smart companies will always seek to identify, train, develop and retain new management talent as business needs and economic trends dictate. That will be inseparable from the inevitable retirement of Baby Boomers, whose 80 million-strong presence in the workforce cannot forever remain an immovable object–not with the equally large number of Millennial generation workers in their 20s ready and eager to assume job responsibility.

Future Talent Is the Challenge

Preparing to cope with this future talent crisis is especially urgent for cosmetics industry companies. Creativity, enthusiasm and awareness of social trends are essential traits for persons at every level in cosmetics organizations. Once such employees are developed, they become high value targets for executive recruiters to lure them away to your competitors. The unique dynamics of cosmetics development and marketing typically dictate that new leaders must come from within companies themselves, reflecting a variety of experiences that develop imagination and sensitivity to the market. The cosmetics industry has a relentless demand for talent that will constantly require identifying new generations of leadership.

Are companies in the industry prepared for this challenge? According to a recent study sponsored by Birkman International and Stanton Chase, only 18% of U.S. companies have a talent acquisition and development plan, in place, with 31% saying they’ve planned but not implemented one and 51% having done neither. That must change if companies are to avoid a future managerial crisis where leadership and talent gaps occur through retirement and attrition.

Training Is the Key

Internal training is the key tool for accelerating the promotion of qualified candidates into positions of responsibility. The best way to identify tomorrow’s leaders is to identify the particular strengths and natural behavioral tendencies of each high potential employee and fit these persons where they will be the most comfortable and able to execute to the fullest of their capabilities. The focus should be on measuring and understanding whether personality traits mesh with specific job requirements. Job requirements go beyond hard skills and experience to include the ability to work with others or lead others productively and effectively, by exhibiting and using certain characteristics.

Cosmetics producers never combine product ingredients without careful testing and extensive analysis. The same analogy applies to the people who develop, make and sell cosmetics and personal care products. All employees have tremendous potential to help their companies be successful. It doesn’t take a big budget for HR professionals to structure training that brings out this potential. A three-step analytical process is necessary.

Assessment Is the Goal