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Who's Next?

Strategies for prepping the next generation of employees

Your senior staff has been with your company since the beginning, but now some of your leading employees are close to retiring- taking their wisdom and experience with them. Are you training the younger generation to take over?

Ninety-four percent of human resources professionals feel their organization has not prepared younger generations to assume senior leadership positions, according to a recent survey by DBM, an HR solutions provider. It's estimated that 60 million baby boomers will leave the work force in the next 15 years, which could be a serious blow to many companies. Managing consultant Rose Folli, with DBM's Newport Beach, California, office, says this transition could be critical, especially in companies where business is heavily customer-centric. Says Folli, "If customers have a good rapport with only one of my employees, and that employee leaves, my account is at risk."

Katherine Carol, founder of Tango Consulting LLC in Denver, coaches companies on how to create a cohesive workplace with an emphasis on sharing knowledge. She suggests mentoring programs pairing senior- and junior-level employees, especially when going on sales calls or other business appointments. "It's amazing how much [training] can occur in the drive-time," says Carol. "That transfers the customer's relationship to the new person and saves time in establishing a new [one if the senior person leaves]."

Experts note some senior execs are afraid to share what they know, for fear they'll become irrelevant and be replaced before they're ready to leave. Alleviate that fear by cross-training all your employees, says Folli. While grooming younger ones, train more experienced employees in new, highly marketable skills to make them feel valued. Also have multilevel teams work on projects together, and make mentoring one of the job parameters to be reviewed.

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This article was originally published in the December 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Who's Next?.

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