Generation Wrecked: how Ontario school board’s waste yet another sign of short-term talent focus

Posted April 20, 2010 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

The headline on the front page of Monday’s Globe and Mail read “Ontario schools waste millions keeping retirees on the job” with the byline “Struggling school boards spend $16.7 mission last year paying pensioners for supply work at higher scale instead of hiring new teachers.”  In the late 90’s, Fast Company penned an article titled “Generation Wrecked” to describe the dot.com devastation hitting 20 something Gen Xer’s.  Is the Boomer reinvention of retirement the second kick in the teeth for GenX and the first one for Gen Y?

We’ve ranted about the Gen X / Gen Y challenges before, so get ready for another one.  As a leader who follows in the wake of the boomers, headlines like the one above certainly don’t make you feel terrific about the prospects of finally cracking that boomer ceiling.  It makes you wonder what’s going to happen 15 to 20 years down the road when Gen Xers hit their 60’s.  Will we be continuing to compete with 75 and 80 year old baby boomers intent on keeping their grips on the plum organizational seats?

We get why organizations make these kinds of “staffing” moves – outsourcing supply teaching to experienced teachers is easy just as, in the corporate world, bringing in “interim” executives to fill key strategic executive gaps is easy.  Training the next generation of leaders isn’t.  Most short-term strategies are like that.  They’re easy and comfortable and that’s why we do it.  And let’s face it, most of the major decisions about making staffing moves like this are being made by… you guessed it… baby boomers.

But, is that what our organizations – and frankly, to be a little melodramatic – our societies need?  To remain competitive globally, how will our organizations attract the best and brightest talent if all they’re seen as doing is outsourcing key work to former employees?

GenX and Y have been painted with a brush of disloyalty… only in it for themselves and ready to move on at the drop of a nickel.  In my experience, this is far from the truth.  Many of the bright leaders I talk to love their jobs… and they’re (literally) fighting to stay engaged.  What’s killing them is the inability to shape the strategies that would allow them to be part of driving their organization forward.  And, articles like the one that surface today only fuel that disillusionment.

We need to find ways to strengthen our next generation leadership and bridge the experience gap being left as boomers move onto their career “Act 2’s”. To do this we need to engage exiting executives in the process… not simply avoid the gap by outsourcing the work back to them.

One of the most important, but little discussed, acts of leadership is to know when it’s time to move on.  And that means move on… not move on, grab your pension or gold handshake, and then re-contract yourself back into your old job on your own terms at a triple pay rate.  Interesting times ahead my friends.

Happy leading!


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