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Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

By: Sharon Birkman Fink, Birkman International
Posted: October 9, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

The cosmetics industry takes as a given the importance of demographic differences in its customers. According to marketing specialists Kline and Company, the wants and needs of U.S. cosmetics, fragrances or toiletries purchasers at age 20, 40 or 60 are the subject of nearly $1 billion a year in market research. The necessity of understanding the demographic drivers of consumer trends is accepted as a given.

What About Employees?

But what about the human capital employed in the cosmetics industry itself? How much do companies analyze the demographics of their employees, who generate nearly $300 billion in annual revenue worldwide? The stereotype of young, glamorous employees at every level from the retail cosmetics counter to the research lab or executive suite is not realistic, but what in fact are the realities? The Personal Care Products Council, which represents more than 600 cosmetics, fragrances and toiletries producers, identifies 14 broad industry job categories. From beauty journalism to selling and merchandising, the PCPC sees some common requirements for any job in the industry: 

Viewing these traits for industry employees in light of overall characteristics and changes in workforce demographics leads to two inevitable conclusions. First, cosmetics producers must understand the implications of workplace interaction and responsibility transition among three age demographics. And second, companies should be aware of the personality assessment tools available to facilitate training and communication that will make the ongoing generational transition in workplace roles a smooth one.

The Coming Transition

With baby boomers set to retire at record numbers in the coming years, need for emerging young leadership talent will be a major preoccupation of all U.S. employers, including cosmetics producers. Boomers represent nearly half of the current workforce, and if they retire at traditional ages, the need to replace them will be enormous. To deal with such turnover, personality assessment tools, when combined with targeted training programs, can identify the capabilities of each person within an organization so that those with high potential can be nurtured and targeted for retention.

Every company should identify where leadership and talent gaps are likely to occur through retirement and normal attrition. The company should then plan a strategy to develop talent internally, or source it externally, or both. According to a recent study sponsored by Birkman International and Stanton Chase, only 18% of U.S. companies have a talent acquisition plan in place, with 31% saying they’ve planned but not implemented one and 51% having done neither.