WITH the predicted departure of approximately 60 million baby boomers from the workforce over the next 15 years, many organisations are not prepared for the impending manpower shortages and resulting senior leadership gaps.

There are proven best practices to assist organisations on how to develop leadership from within the company. How can middle managers make the next step?

In 10 years’ time, executives with global experience will fill top-level leadership positions. Bilingual skills and cross-cultural capabilities will be key for movement to the C-level. Additionally, executives must demonstrate the ability to grow and turn around a business and to prove themselves as effective leaders in periods of change.

The leaders of tomorrow will have to thrive in a high-performance culture. The ability to generate major increases in revenue growth, employment and stock prices by leveraging the power of the organisation itself will set these leaders apart from the pack.

Leaders who take bold actions, quickly and often, are going to be prized above the cautious, rule-driven bureaucrat. They know how to look for good ideas everywhere and rapidly put them to use.

Companies know what they want in their future leaders. But what they are struggling with is knowing who they are. To address these predicted vacuums, many organisations are employing coaches to minimise the effects of the predicted baby boomer exodus in the coming years.

Succession planning

Projecting their business requirements into the future, these organisations see an urgent need to prepare the next generation of executives to step into vacated senior leadership roles.

In a recent survey by leading human capital management and consulting firm DBM, 66 per cent of those polled have implemented executive coaching programmes in the last two to three years for the purpose of high potential grooming and performance enhancement.

The study also found that the biggest challenge for companies in implementing executive coaching programmes is the lack of time to focus on anything but managing current business demands. Some of those polled cited lack of time and budget as reasons for delaying leadership development strategies in their companies.

This shortsightedness will ultimately hit business results as experience, knowledge and maturity gradually drain from an organisation’s collective know-how.

Succession planning and development of senior leaders must be priorities for organisations. Until recently, many companies lacked the impetus to implement comprehensive executive coaching initiatives.

However, the improvement of the economy and a demographic shift in the workforce is now compelling corporations to fill leadership gaps with younger workers, who lack the right skills and behaviours necessary to take their companies to the next level.

Succession planning helps organisations decide who should be developed as leaders, which employees have the highest potential and who can fill organisation-critical roles.

The human resource department is increasingly being called upon to provide solutions to succession planning as well as a host of other questions such as: “Who do we spend our development dollars on?”, “Who is ready to take over this critical role?” and “When will this person be ready for his next promotion?”

How to get noticed

While a lot of companies are working on succession planning, how can individuals ensure they are on the radar? In today’s workplace, career advancement is essentially in your court.

Managing your career successfully requires knowledge, discipline and developing career strategies that clearly describe the direction you wish to take. You also need a set of inter-connected plans that align your values, skills, strengths and resources to achieve a goal.

See yourself and your role in another perspective. For example, you:

* are a business, not an employee;

* earn a fee-for-service, not salary;

* work, instead of having a job;

* are in control and avoid a false sense of security;

* are employable, not employed;

* have skills sets and competencies, not job descriptions and titles; and

* have a portfolio career, not one career.

You need to align the mission, culture, values and business strategy of your current organisation to your personal values, competencies, career orientation and priorities.

There’s no doubt that the enthusiasm and high aspirations of the next generation of young managers will be an asset to organisations who can attract top talent.

However, when baby-boomer mentors leave organisations and take their wisdom and experience with them, many of these younger workers will feel unprepared to take on the full weight of a senior management position.

But with guidance from more mature and experienced minds, they can be transformed into the leaders that Singapore needs in order to stay ahead in a competitive globalised world.