Blog: Who'll Step into the Breach?

"I am amazed, I'm scared, I am terrified," the CIO told me last week.

"I don't know what succession planning will look like in upper management 15 years from now. I really don't. It's got to be a whole different brave new world. It's hard to imagine how you can pick the people who can take over your chair."

How on earth, this CIO wants to know, do you do a decent job of succession planning when most of the talent in your pipeline has about as much interest in filling your shoes as they would in joining you on the golf course?

With Generation X's and Y's already outnumbering Baby Boomers, and many of those boomers intermittently daydreaming about setting off on that post-retirement world cruise or moving into the beachside retirement home, succession planning is becoming a massive headache for some CIOs.

X's have been in the workforce for 10 to 15 years now, and growing numbers are easing themselves effortlessly into more senior positions at their companies. Y's, the new new kids on the block, are quietly proving their talent and ability as they fill the shoes of X's. But while Y's are incredibly switched on technologically-speaking, and are often as keen and committed as their older brothers and sisters, what they ain't, is prepared to spend their lives on the job. For this generation of former latch-key kids, the researchers agree, is stubbornly resistant to the work ethic and culture of their seniors. Not for them the 14-hour day at the office and the being on call 24 hours a day. Work is work. Play is something else entirely, and never the twain shall mix.

Personal flexibility and work/life balance are their mantras. Loyalty to the job is an alien concept. They're all about working smarter, not longer.

"I mean one of the characteristics of a manager is you're in before everybody else, you're going home after everybody else, you have every issue that exists within the office, you're contactable 24 hours a day, all of those things that we know as managers. But one of the things that I'm finding is a lot of the generation X's and Y's are happy to sit at a particular level and not move," the CIO said.

Every CEO and CXO knows in their heart of hearts they should be doing succession planning, but study after study shows most companies do it rather poorly. It seems only 50 to 60 percent of companies have so much as a nominal succession process or plan in place, and 94 per cent haven't adequately prepared leaders to step into senior executive positions.

And it seems very few CIOs are adequately planning for the time just around the corner when Baby Boomers will begin exiting the workforce. A Computerworld survey finds more than half of the senior IT managers surveyed aren't doing a thing in terms of planning to fill that void.

Small wonder, perhaps, if so few of their new hires seem interested in helping them out.

Still, there is an upside to all that flexibility. As a recent survey found, Australians like working for Generation X bosses far more than Baby Boomer bosses because X's create a more flexible workplace.

A poll of 2000 people by recruitment firm Talent2 found 67 per cent preferred working under Generation X and 37 per cent of respondents said the Australian workplace was changing for the better because of Generation X managers.

Gen-X's were reportedly more confident and believed in creating a flexible workplace.

Perhaps one day those X's will find a way to encourage their Y's to take on more of the leadership burden.

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