Professional December 2017/January 2018

Professional development insight

Succession planning

Karen Greenbaum, president and chief executive officer of the AESC, discusses leveraging Gen X and Millennial talent

I n the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants’ (AESC’s) report Executive Talent 2020 (http://, the number one challenge forecast by senior executives in five years was aging demographics. Today’s leaders across sectors look at their current senior talent and harbour anxiety about what happens when so many reach retirement age. Coupled with future concerns about globalisation and competition for top talent, it’s no wonder that succession planning is a critical concern for today’s C-suite (e.g. chief executive) and boardrooms. Many thought-pieces have been written about today’s generational differences in the workplace, and a looming talent cliff as Baby Boomers continue to retire en masse in developed markets around the globe. A common perception shared by today’s business leaders is that there is not enough Gen X and Millennial talent prepared to lead and occupy all those vacancies in the C-suite and boardrooms. So, what can businesses do to attract, retain and develop this critical group of next-generation leaders? To better understand how organisations can prepare and create a strong competitive advantage by capitalising on the strengths and capabilities of next-generation leaders, AESC recently conducted a survey (http:// of more than 850 business leaders worldwide, across industries and geographic markets. What we found was a level of anxiety as business leaders worldwide struggle with a climate of constant uncertainty and lightning-fast change, in a new world order that feels fundamentally different from what came before. Yet, beneath this anxiety, we discovered a vision for tomorrow’s global business with new opportunities brought by next-generation executives. Business leaders are looking to the next-generation to drive change and foster innovation. Here’s what we found out about Gen X and Millennial talent: ● Next-generation executives are change agents – Gen X and Millennial

talent both offer qualities that are ideal for leading change, ranked in AESC’s survey as the top leadership quality of next-generation executive talent. Both generations have experiences of heightened uncertainty and sweeping change, and thus both are comfortable in climates of fast pace and instability. They are fast adopters of new technology. Gen X was the first generation to grow up with personal computers and seamlessly adapted from analogue to digital technology, while Millennials have grown up immersed in a digitally connected society. ...succession planning is a critical concern for today’s C-suite... Many Gen X leaders are well-positioned to drive digital transformation in their organisations, understanding the experiences of both Baby Boomers and Millennials who have grown up on either end of the digital divide, so instilled with the empathy and emotional intelligence required to rally teams and foster a culture conducive to enterprise-wide shift. Millennial leaders are well-positioned to pick up where Gen X leaves off and drive digital to a new level of true integration across all business functions. ● Next-generation executives are entrepreneurs – Business leaders look to the next-generation for their entrepreneurial abilities, ranked in AESC’s survey as the second highest quality next-generation talent has to offer. C-suite leaders know their organisations and industries depend on innovation, but that innovation becomes increasingly difficult in today’s rapidly changing climate. Next-generation leaders bring experiences aligned for innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, with both Gen X and Millennial leaders as a group more diverse than their Baby Boomer predecessors. This allows them to more

readily bring diverse perspectives and a wider range of fresh thinking and innovation. ● Next-generation executives are bridge builders – Both Gen X and Millennials offer leadership qualities conducive to collaboration. While Gen X is well-known for its individualistic streak, Gen X leaders are building bridges between their Baby Boomer and Millennial colleagues, both as conduits for digital transformation and as developers and mentors of their Millennial workforce, accelerating Millennials to take on leadership roles. Millennials as a generation are well- known for their preference for collaboration, and Millennial leaders will thrive in flat, dynamic organisations with few formal hierarchies. Next-generation executive talent is values- driven and prioritises transparency. Gen X leaders exude no-nonsense characteristics and shun unnecessary process, preferring transparent methods and protocols, while Millennial leaders will bring life experiences centered on transparency and a culture of sharing. This bent toward transparency and values positions next-generation executive talent as internal and external bridge builders among their organisation’s various stakeholders: customers, shareholders and employees. Today’s C-suite executives understand the imperative for agile and entrepreneurial leadership that can shake up outdated approaches. They seek talent that is empathetic and combines critical thinking with an innovative mindset, and increasingly, they look to the next-generation to get it. While succession planning remains a critical concern for today’s business leaders, today’s executives also realise there are leadership attributes brought by Gen X and Millennials waiting to be tapped to overcome top business challenges, from globalisation to digital transformation and new markets. To learn more about next-generation leadership and how to best attract, retain and develop Gen X and Millennial leaders, see The New Wave: Next-Generation Executive Talent ( n


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Issue 36 | December 2017/January 2018

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