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Where Is Tomorrow’s Management Talent?

Sharon Birkman Fink, President and CEO, Birkman International

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.

  • Define: Look at your employees and define what types skills and personality traits are needed in each areas of the organization. What motivates a sales team will be very different from what motivates a team of chemical researchers. • Assess: Through assessment you can identify which current employees might have the natural strengths and behaviors required in specific operations. Not all successful employees need all success traits, so focus on the traits necessary in each functional area.
  • Develop: Personality assessments can accelerate skill development by pointing up employee strengths and weaknesses. You can find the right fit of person and position, in ways that encourage high potential candidates to execute to the fullest of their capacities.

Assessment Is the Goal

Combining effective personality testing with training has another advantage in multi-generational workplaces, where tension and miscommunication can occur between employees with clashing personality traits or styles (more prevalent than ever as Boomers stay longer and Millennials want to move up). The best personality assessment tools can address this problem by breaking down communication barriers because they offer powerful insights into how peers think and act, and allow focused training to encourage desired behaviors.

The best strategy for meeting the future management crisis is to promote individuals already with the organization into positions of significant responsibility and leadership. Testing can identify their strengths, motivational needs and stress reactions, and provide basic recommendations for how they can fulfill their motivational needs while best contributing to organizational success. Testing shows whether people perform best with individual responsibility or as part of a team . . . prefer structured or flexible work environments . . . focus on details or the big picture . . . take individual responsibility or delegate through others.

When approached in this way, training will accelerate the promotion of qualified employees who can help the company grow and evolve. The training focus should be on measuring and understanding whether personality traits mesh with specific competencies required for the leadership task at hand. Competencies often go beyond hard skills and experience and may include the ability to productively work with or effectively lead others, by such behaviors as accepting feedback, advancing teamwork efforts and demonstrating workplace satisfaction.

Adaptation Is the Solution

Although it’s possible to some degree to generalize about certain outlooks or proclivities of generations as demographic groups, it is important to remember that each member of a generation will have his or her own strengths, weaknesses, productive and stress behaviors and learning preferences that may be similar to or differ from his or her generational cohorts. Personality testing identifies and brings those characteristics into focus.

Qualities that make a difference in organizational performance can be found within individuals not previously tapped for leadership roles, and a well designed personality assessment can often find these undiscovered leaders. With leadership candidates in high demand, finding these diamonds in the rough can give your organization an additional bench for minimal cost. By identifying which candidates have the potential to be leaders and their potential leadership styles, personality testing establishes a systematic program for leadership development. Such a planned approach can spell the difference between a prepared and effective organization and one with a leadership and performance deficit.

All successful organizations maintain their ability to adapt and grow by identifying and nurturing their employees with the most potential. That puts the focus on Millennials, who have tremendous potential to transform the organizations where they work by serving as a new generation of strong leaders who are flexible, able to cope with change, and ready to find new ways of solving problems. The best ways to realize this potential can be learned, cultivated, honed and enhanced through effective training programs that use accurate personality assessment to identify individual capabilities. By channeling these traits to the best fit with job responsibilities, any cosmetics industry company will be able to find its next leaders, improve its current leaders, and bring about a whole new level of excellence in its performance.

Sharon Birkman Fink is president and CEO of Birkman International, Inc., which provides an assessment tool that accurately measures internal needs, behaviors, occupational preferences and organizational strengths. She can be reached at 713-623-2760.


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