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By: Barbara Bowes

Most readers are familiar with the highly popular TV show, Undercover Boss, now seen in Canada, England and the United States. Each episode features either a senior executive and/or business owner of a large corporation who goes undercover as a front-line employee in their own company. The executive wears a disguise, adopts an alias and background and then spends one week working various jobs. In most episodes, the executive also changes locations. During the week, the executive experiences all the trials and tribulations of front-line workers and really gets to see first-hand what is working well and what is not.

In most of the episodes I’ve personally watched, the executives appear quite shocked at the many little process challenges a front-line worker is confronted with. As well, the experience seems to be a real “eye opener” as the executive learns how some of their corporate policies negatively impacted the front-line workers. At the same time, the undercover executive gets to meet both excellent as well as poorly disciplined employees and learns a great deal about the corporate leadership style and front-line working conditions.

Yet, as you might expect, it would be difficult and impractical for most executives to go “under cover” in order to find out what’s going on at the front line. However, staying in touch with what is really going on in your organization is very important and even more so since executives are commonly located in corporate offices, famously known as the “ivory tower.”

However, that’s no excuse for ignoring and/or avoiding the important task of knowing your employees, understanding what’s happening throughout your organization and keeping your finger on the pulse of employee engagement. So, if that’s the case, what are some strategies that can be employed to help executives get “in the know” and stay connected with workers at all levels of their organization? The following tips have proven successful in many organizations.

Employee engagement surveys — Many organizations are investing significant dollars on diagnostic surveys that ask employees to identify issues perceived to be problematic. These surveys often run between 40-80 questions inquiring about leadership style, organizational communication, organization culture or job satisfaction amongst others. However, conducting the survey is one thing; doing something with it is another. Leaders shouldn’t undertake an employee survey unless they are willing to hear what is going to be said and be willing to do something about it. You must be prepared to share the results, present a plan for overcoming the barriers that have been raised and then taking action. If you fail to do that, you will have lost all opportunity to build the desired relationships with your staff.

Manage by walking around — While managing by walking around may sound old fashioned, it’s still very powerful and engages front-line employees in casual, friendly conversation. Know your employees’ names and use them. Focus the conversation on the employees by asking about families, activities, education or sports while at the same time being sensitive to personal privacy. Be sure to distribute your time fairly within the organization as you can easily be seen as favouring one department over another.
Be open and available — If you’ve successfully developed an informal relationship with employees and developed personal comfort, they’ll have no hesitation stopping by your workspace for a quick hello and a chat. Take a few moments and listen. If an employee offers a suggestion, ask them to investigate it further and return to share it with others. This approach helps to build skills, includes individuals in change and helps to build self-confidence. At the same time, you might find a “diamond in the rough” that you can develop as time goes on.

Ask for suggestions — Pull out that old-fashioned suggestion box and incorporate the idea into your workplace intranet system. Take the suggestions seriously. Acknowledge receipt and identify what the next steps will be. Perhaps meet with the employee to get more information as to why the suggestion was made and how their suggestion might impact operational systems.
Praise success — Most suggestions once implemented save the organization significant dollars. Plan to communicate the success to a broad audience. Name and profile the employee who made the suggestion and confirm the level of impact the suggestion has had on the organization. Reward the employee appropriately.

Be creative with reward and recognition — Meaningful rewards don’t have to be big public affairs. In fact, most employees would simply appreciate a personal thank you, tickets to a hockey game or a concert or a family night out at a restaurant. Organize a monthly president’s breakfast with a select group of employees and have a conversation. No matter what the reward and recognition initiatives you start, the important thing is to stick with it. Starting a new initiative and then not following through will only serve to create unwanted negativity.

Develop a sense of connection — If possible, hold full staff meetings monthly or quarterly to bring employees up to date on organizational happenings. Invite managers to share news from their department. Invite employees to share something good happening in their lives. Announce job changes, new employee backgrounds, marriages, births or other good news.
Create opportunities for social interaction — Many employees are involved in community service groups whose work could be enhanced through the workplace. Set up internal groups that support ongoing initiatives and create opportunities for individual employees to participate. Get employees involved a fun activity to raise money for a selected cause.

Invest in training and development — Opportunities for training and development demonstrate employees are valued and this creates a strong sense of belonging and loyalty. At the same time, employees will be upgrading their technical skills and learning new skills to enhance their career. All in all, employee development will lead to increased productivity and quality while at the same time strengthening morale and team spirit.

Address problems quickly — Nothing damages employee morale more quickly than a leader who procrastinates and/or avoids conflict. After awhile, employees will stop bringing issues forward because nothing is done about them. Create an organizational culture where employees are taught how to assess problems, discover the impact on the organization, offer a set of solutions and make a recommendation. This way, the employee has done his/her thinking rather than “dumping” a problem on the leader. Employees then feel they have more of an impact on their organization and their voice is heard and valued.

While it might be an interesting experience, most leaders shouldn’t need to be an “under cover” boss in order to keep their finger on the pulse of their organization. The simple initiatives stated above, if applied consistently will help you to create a sense of community amongst your employees. This in turn creates a culture of trust, in which employees feel valued and operational problems are identified and rectified quickly.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.

No matter what industry sector, we all know there’s a general growing trend toward protecting the environment and recycling. And it’s not just about saving the planet; it’s about reusing and taking advantage of products that still have value. This phenomenon has also been a long-standing tradition in the area of second hand clothing stores or consignment shops.

So, why not think about “recycling” former employees back into your workplace? That’s right…bring them back! In fact, they might be really good candidates for your current job opportunity. After all, former employees have a fairly good handle on the nature of your business. In fact, they may have chosen to leave only to pursue a career opportunity that wasn’t available in your organization.

Interestingly enough, recent research on “boomerang” employees, those individuals who left and returned to a former employer, showed that these individuals did indeed leave more frequently for other career opportunities and/or for personal reasons. As well, the research found that these individuals typically returned to the former employer within a three-year period of time.

Actually, my professional position is that anyone who leaves your organization should be always considered an “alumni” who could hold value for you in the future. These individuals, especially if they were valuable employees, are good for network referrals. Keep in touch with them; they know the type of individual who would fit in well at your organization. They know the skills, the personalities, the leadership style and the requirements for success. These former employees can, at the very least, refer others to you for consideration. Then again, as more challenging opportunities arise, these same “alumni” can be excellent candidates to return and make another significant contribution to your organization.

As demonstrated in research, job dissatisfaction is not always the automatic reason people choose to leave an employer. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity that cannot be passed up. However, the situation does suggest that an organization can reduce the chance of employee leaving by ensuring an effective new-employee orientation process and providing an ongoing mentor connection so that the employee can be coached and guided in a career direction. And, if/when the individual can no longer progress within your organization, I believe there is nothing wrong with helping them move to other opportunities that would develop their skills and prepare them for a return to your organization.

At the same time, I cannot stress enough the importance of the exit interview and transition process when someone is leaving your organization. Since your alumni relationship starts immediately after the individual’s resignation, their treatment during this exit process is key to retaining their loyalty and creating a chance for their return. While the resignation might hurt your organization on the short term, keep in mind that you’ve invested in this person and you valued their contribution. Surely, investing in a continuing relationship is also worth your time and energy.

However, staying in touch with alumni and cultivating a loyal bond is not as easy as it might seem. Successful strategies have included annual alumni social events or receptions. More recently of course, many organizations have started their own alumni websites and email campaigns that allow former employees to interact with each other and to stay tuned to the direction and success of their former employer. Some organizations will send out staff or company newsletters and notices to former employees to attend staff fun events. Still, others ensure their managers stay in close touch by including them in their personal network. And in fact the research shows that most boomerang employees are rehired as a direct result of a personal relationship. In other words, when you make that recruiting call, it is a so-called, “warm call” and not a “cold call”.

Recruiting former employees to your organization can provide additional specific benefits. For instance, now that they’ve been away from your firm for awhile, they may be able to bring competitive intelligence to your industry sector. Overall, they are less expensive to train because their learning curve is shorter, and they can act as mentors more quickly because of their previous knowledge.
In a time of challenging recruitment scenarios, keeping in touch with alumni and considering them for positions within your organization is a valuable idea.

Source: They’re Gone – But not for Long, Dori Meinert, HR Magazine, June 2013.

Michael E. Gerber
Harper  Collins Publishers, Inc.
Click here to purchase

This is an updated version of an earlier best seller on the trials and tribulations of starting and growing your own business. Famous for the concept of working “on the business” instead of “in the business”, Gerber uses dialogue with a client and her business to help readers understand the concepts he is teaching. While in most cases this is a good approach, I found that the lessons were sometimes long in coming. I would rather they have been more brief and to the point. However, the book does have value for entrepreneurs and will certainly make you sit up and pay attention to where you are going.



By: Barbara Bowes

While the last few years have found baby-boomer retirement issues holding top priority, the latest human resource surveys are showing that employee engagement is now taking over the primary lead.

In fact, one survey reports that 94 per cent of survey participants indicated that employee engagement was the most important workforce challenge they were currently facing.

Yet, what is employee engagement and why are HR managers so concerned? Employee engagement refers to whether or not employees have a positive or negative approach to their work and to whether or not employees are willing and/or not willing to perform at their best in ways that further benefit their employer.

The reason HR managers are concerned about employee engagement is that engaged employees are known to make a strong impact on business success from a profitability point of view and also contribute to a positive work culture.
At the same time, human resource professionals know that a focus on employee engagement has a spillover effect in that other human resource functions such as performance management, employee recognition and employee retention seem to improve. As well, those organizations that track employee engagement scores are also discovering that their managers are much more effective in developing, providing feedback, recognizing and rewarding their employees.
This is good news from two points of view. First, it confirms that leadership styles have transitioned from an autocratic authoritarian style to one of collaboration, coaching and mentoring of employees. Secondly, it is finally giving credence to the fact that employee reward and recognition programs are not simply that annual warm and fuzzy “must have” event but do indeed have real return on investment for a business.

If you really think about it, a fully engaged workforce that outperforms other work groups will essentially become your competitive advantage. And, if employee reward and recognition programs have proven to be a big part of successful employee engagement, then it makes sense to strategically implement a reward and recognition program. This program will become a set of guiding principles that will ensure all forms of your rewards and recognition are in alignment with your business strategy. The following steps to implementation will ensure an effective contribution to your employee engagement.

1.    Secure leadership commitment – a reward and recognition program must be supported not only by a CEO/president, but also by all the executives and managers in a company. Appoint a program champion to oversee the design, development and implementation.

2.    Link rewards to business strategy – your program must be connected to both the needs and expectations of your workforce as well as to the organizational goals and objectives. Incorporate your company values and goals into the program so that your messages are consistent and employees understand what behaviours are important.

3.    Make the program fair and inclusive – a reward and recognition program must be able to impact and motivate all of your employees, not just a set of top performers. This now includes consideration for the interests and needs of the various generations of workers in your organization. Establish your selection criteria so that “justice for all” is perceived by your employees, which in turn will help to develop trust in your program.

4.    Design for meaning – consider conducting an employee survey to identify personal interests and suggestions for what would be appreciated in a reward or recognition program. Employees value meaningful rewards that they can get excited about and that motivates them to excel. Work with your employees to help create a personal mission that links with the corporate mission. Form an employee committee to assist management in designing the program. Value all suggestions.

5.    Design for choice – with so many different interests and needs in today’s workforce, the best strategy is to allow for choice in the selection of a reward gift. Rewards typically range from an item with the company logo to making a charitable donation in the name of your employees. This will enable you to meet the needs of an intergenerational workforce and one with significant cultural diversity.

6.    Simplify the nomination process – ensure the nomination process is not too complicated or time intensive so that people will be encouraged rather than discouraged from participating. Keep your forms simple, and be sure to be consistent and make the overall selection process transparent.

7.    Link reward with action – it’s well known that when recognition quickly follows action, you’ll get a lot more “bang for the buck” in terms of employee motivation. Timeliness helps the employee to know why he or she is being acknowledged and why their contribution or behaviour was valuable. As well, your timely recognition will be better remembered and the employee behaviour reinforced.

8.    Train your managers – managers are typically the people handling the reward and recognition program as well as leading employees toward greater engagement. Train your managers to understand the goals and objectives of your program as well as how to effectively implement the program on an ongoing basis.

9.    Promote your program – help employees understand the “what, where, why and how” of your rewards and recognition program. Use multiple communication strategies and media. Be sure that employees understand the “what’s in it for me”. Plan to promote employee success and recognition through your company newsletter or email/twitter messages. Make them a star.

10.    Make it a celebration – in addition to making daily acknowledgements, annual performance reviews or sporadic special events, celebrate employee achievements by holding an annual event. Incorporate all kinds of rewards and recognition ranging from retirement to special achievements. Make it a celebration.

11.    Measure your results – measuring success through tracking employee satisfaction and employee engagement against your program objectives will give you an indication of success. When management is aware of this annual measurement, you’ll see an increase in accountability and leadership behaviours as well as increase in the application of other human resource functions.

Meaningful employee reward and recognition programs are a powerful tool for engaging your employees and increasing retention. However, a program must be well thought out, fair, transparent and based on corporate goals and objectives that are linked to the recognition and rewards that an employee values.

Source: Employee Recognition Survey, Winter 2012 Report, SHRM/Globoforce; Creating an Effective Reward and Recognition Program, Leadership council, March 2006

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.


While many urban businesses and organizations are experiencing difficulty attracting qualified candidates, organizations in rural and northern more isolated communities have an even greater challenge. Location! 

Whereas marketing guru’s shout out “location, location, and location” as the key message to attract business, location isn’t the winning formula when undertaking an executive search for a more isolated community. In fact, location can be very much of a detriment that could slow down a candidate search and frustrate the best of selection committee.

Yet, these rural and isolated communities do indeed have a lot to offer but part of the challenge is that members of a selection committee often take themselves for granted. They forget to recognize the many features and benefits their location does have to offer. And they don’t know how to market these benefits. This is where an executive search professional can help.

An executive search professional will assist a selection committee to look at other features of their location such as identifying and promoting the environmental and community features they have to offer. In many cases, I find that a rural or isolated location offers closer interpersonal relationships with a wide variety of professionals. Location often offers the intrinsic reward of an accelerated career path as tenure will broaden one’s scope of experience and learning which in turn creates longer-term advancement opportunities for a candidate. This is especially true for specialists and for those candidates interested in management.

The search committee also needs to examine other benefits their location has to offer. Most frequently the location would be attractive to candidates who are already engaged in similar sports and activities or who enjoy adventure. We work with the committee to identify activities for adults, children and families. We review the overall lifestyle and note the areas that would be attractive to candidates.

As well, we examine areas where people can volunteer at various charities and we review the schools, churches and health facilities. All of these elements help us to build a picture of life in the community and to specifically focus on items that would attract high-qualified candidates.

The role of an executive search consultant in this case is to assist the selection committee to package and market their job opportunity to those individuals who have an affinity for similar surroundings. Therefore, the first step I take is to truly understand all of the benefits and challenges of the community and within the job itself.

I begin by interviewing current members of the selection committee and also reach out to other selected employees to learn what attracted them to their location and job opportunity and what makes them stay. I ask these interviewees to describe their lifestyle, what they do in their leisure time, what professional accomplishments they have made in their role and what benefits they feel they enjoy because of the location.

Next, I apply a candidate search strategy. This investment in time by dedicated researchers helps us to target various locales where a potential candidate already appreciates the lifestyle described and is involved in activities offered in the client community. Then from this candidate pool, I deliberately seek individual’s who would benefit from a career progression opportunity beyond where they are working currently. As well, the dedicated researchers dip into candidate pools such construction, the military or other industry sectors that hold highly qualified candidates that are customarily more mobile than others.

Once a number of candidates have been identified, we approach the individuals with the opportunity, inquire about their interests and attempt to “sell” the features and benefits of the job. Once there appears to be an interest, we ask for and screen the resumes and conduct a telephone screening interview. If interest continues, we will frequently send the candidate additional print information and tourism data as well as more in-depth information on the job opportunity.

As the candidate pool is screened and qualifications confirmed, we typically bring the individuals into the client community for a face-to-face interview and a tour. It is important to be as realistic as possible about the features and benefits but also be open and transparent about some of the challenges that will be experienced when in the community. This approach helps to confirm only those clients that have a significant interest and a willingness to commit to the job opportunity. When possible, we might schedule a second visit for the candidate accompanied by a spouse and/or family because candidates will not stay unless the family is happily involved in the community as well.

While of course, I’m biased, I believe that the best bet for rural and isolated communities is to use an external executive search professional. We have the time, resources and network contacts that enable us to reach out to thousands of potential candidates and to screen them effectively. The result will be a qualified candidate with a good reputation and someone who respects, appreciates and values what the community and job opportunity has to offer.

Ted Rogers with Robert Brehl
Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., 2008
Purchase here (http://www.amazon.ca/Relentless-Story-Behind-Rogers-Communications/dp/1554680271)

A folksy, easy to read book that brings the reader right into the life and times of Ted Rogers. It is a positive and upbeat personal reflection inclusive of an attempt to explain his reputation for temper tantrums. There is much to learn from Roger’s experience, particularly the need to focus on what can be done and not why something can’t be done, the importance of good time management and the need to make decisions quickly. The many trials and tribulations Rogers faced on the path to business success are very interesting and provide for a great Canadian story.

What the single-stream CPA designation means for students 

For students considering a career in accounting, 2013 might seem like the most confusing time

in the history of the profession. For more than a century, Canada has had three different accounting designations, each with its own unique path from school to work and each competing for its share of influence among students and industry. But this year, a little more than 100 years after the split, it has reunited, changing both the nature of accounting and the path students follow to get there.


In the past, three designations—chartered accountant, certified management accountant and certified general accountant—occupied their own comfortable niches within the profession. CAs were dedicated number crunchers who typically worked in public practice, performing corporate and government audits, and CAs generally aspired to jobs at major accounting firms like Deloitte and KPMG. CMAs were the corporate leaders: Their studies were akin to an M.B.A., focusing more on business management. More recently, the country has seen the explosive growth of CGAs, whose part-time, distance-education-style certification program was aimed at working professionals who wanted to advance their career by adding an accounting designation to their resumé. As the only accounting designation that didn’t require a university degree, it also became the preferred route for new immigrants, college graduates and those who hadn’t gone to business school.


Over the years the designations began to blur. An increasing number of CAs have made their way into corporate offices, traditionally the domain of CMAs. Last year CGAs in all provinces finally won the right to do audits, traditionally reserved for CAs. Where once employers may have demanded specific designations for senior accounting jobs, now more will accept any kind of professional accounting designation.


Last year, a review by the Quebec government sought to merge all three professions under common regulations, prompting accounting bodies in other provinces to think about setting aside their historic differences.

Earlier this year the three were merged into a single entity to be known as a chartered professional accountant. With that will come a new certification program, which officials say will take the best of all three programs to create a more well-rounded professional.


The new program, which starts this year in Western Canada (it’s being offered directly through the new Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada and will eventually include partnerships with some universities) and next year in most of Eastern Canada, will require all students to get a grounding in both accounting and finance principles and business leadership. The courses will vary slightly based on whether students are destined for auditing or management. It will still require roughly two years of work experience before students can earn the designation, but that will be opened up to a wider variety of on-the-job training than formerly allowed.


The idea is each CPA will be “more than a bean counter,” says Tashia Batstone, vice-president of education services for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. “We want to make sure that people coming out of this program have broad management skills in order to be able to apply the technical knowledge they’ve learned.”


The changes have caused a flurry of calls to accounting professor Steven Salterio’s office at Queen’s University from students and their parents worried about what it will mean for their education and their career. Not much, says Salterio, who heads the CPA Queen’s Centre For Governance. “There might be an extra course here or there, but for a student in university right now, there’s not going to be much of a difference,” he says. “It doesn’t change their job prospects. Accountants are one of the most in-demand groups in the Canadian economy.”


The biggest change will come for mid-career professionals and immigrants who don’t have degrees in business or finance from a Canadian university and will lose the option of a CGA. But the new CPA will offer a separate qualifying program for those students with university degrees in unrelated subjects. Both programs will be available online as distance-learning courses, which opens the door to working professionals outside of major centres.


The changes are more complicated in Ontario and Manitoba, where CGAs have refused to join the new organization. Doug Brooks, head of CGA Ontario, says talks broke down because the new CPA organization couldn’t provide written guarantees that all members would be treated equally.


Another issue, he says, is that CGAs couldn’t be sure they would have equal access to any new agreements over credential recognition in other countries. “We’ve said all along we always believed that unifying the profession could make sense under the right circumstances,” says Brooks. “Those circumstances are enforceable commitments around members’ rights and privileges.”


Whether students in Ontario and Manitoba should choose a CPA or a CGA will likely come down to personal preference. The CPA is designed as a two-year, part-time course taken at the same time that students gain required work experience. CGA students typically take five or six years to complete their studies, which reflects the fact that the designation has been aimed at two-year community college graduates who are going back to university and people looking to switch careers.


Despite the short-term turmoil, Salterio says the changes will strengthen Canada’s accounting programs in the long run by making them more uniform. He suspects CGAs in Ontario and Manitoba may eventually iron out their differences and join the CPA—perhaps prompted by provincial governments who want to even the playing field. “I just hope all this gets straightened out and we have a complete unification across the country, because this has been a long time coming. A hundred years is kind of ridiculous.”


McMahon, Tamsin. “What the single-stream CPA designation means for students” Accounting designations get together. macleans, September 24th, 2013. Web. November 2nd, 2013.

Ram Charan

McGraw Hill, 2009

Purchase here (http://www.amazon.ca/Leadership-Era-Economic-Uncertainty-Managing/dp/0071626166)


Ram Charan’s hard punching guide to survival focuses on one word and that is “cash, cash and cash”. He rightly points out that this global economic crisis is the biggest management challenge in decades and that most people don’t know how to deal with it.

Each chapter suggests practical guidance and includes such tips as pursuing every source of cash possible, being prepared to make the tough decisions and to aggressively practice the new mantra of “head in-hands on”. The book is well written, examples are very current and the advice very practical. Charan’s book is not just for the CEO, but is a must read for managers at all levels of the organization.


By: Barbara Bowes


What do you do when your organizational career ladder is no longer pointed upward? What can you do when you have downsized, right-sized and restructured to such an extent employees are confused about possible opportunities? What can you do when employees tend to flee from your organization first and ask questions later?

Today, organizational and human-resource leaders need to take on a new view of career management. They need to develop a partnership with their employees, working jointly toward building skills that can benefit the organization as well as the employee in the long term, no matter whether the employee remains with the organization.

Leaders need to know that employee training is an investment rather than a flight risk.

Finally, a new reinvigorated view of career management will give leaders an opportunity to take a holistic view of all their organizational roles, the skills required within the larger workflow and to identify unexpected career opportunities.

At the same time, a holistic approach to career management gives leaders an opportunity to identify the multitude of skills that exist among their employees.

And believe me, leaders are often surprised at the level of employee talent the organization was not aware of and therefore was not being fully utilized.

The following ideas will assist you to take a career management point of view within your organization.


  • Conduct a job-analysis process: While job descriptions have long been a standard HR tool, most do not describe the skills and talents required for each job. Take time now to review the knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies required for each job structure in your organization. Use this data to determine both current gaps, future risks in the various skill areas and opportunities for development.
  • Develop a master chart of job families: List the job skills in chart form, look for common skills and competencies that could be transferred to various jobs within your organization and highlight them. Group similar skills into job families and determine what additional skills would enable more employees to cross-train in other jobs within the families. Create a total organizational framework that outlines the functions, the job families and the different levels in each.
  • Publish a competency dictionary: Each job has a set of core competencies as well as technical competencies at different levels of expertise. Create a competency dictionary and make it public. This helps employees to see the progression of skills and where they can be applied. This can also provide an awareness of what training might be required to progress toward a particular goal.
  • Map out career opportunities: Develop a strategic map of opportunities and demonstrate how one job can lead to another. This is helpful for employees as they try to envision a career path. Colour-code skill similarities so employees can clearly see opportunities that might exist upward, downward and sideways.
  • Conduct an employee-skills assessment: Organizations rarely conduct a complete survey of all the skills and talent found within the employee complement. Now is the time. At the very simple level, employees could complete a skills-inventory checklist or one could be acquired through interviews or a review of performance appraisal forms. Be sure to inquire about skills used outside work in hobbies or community work. These skills can often lead to new careers.
  • Develop a career-management philosophy: Work with all of your managers to ensure they understand and adopt the philosophy that career management is an investment in employees. Help to overcome the old fear philosophy of “train them and they will leave.” Focus on developing a partnership between employee and employer and create ideas on how this can be applied in your organization.
  • Provide career-management training for employees: Develop a training program that helps employees understand personal success isn’t always an upward progression. Help them to gain a sense of personal control by becoming more aware of workplace trends and the need for continuous learning. Help employees identify their passion, talents and motivators and discover how best to align their personal traits and career goals with the vision and objectives of the organization.
  • Offer career resources: While not all organizations are of the size to offer a career resource centre, leaders can provide resource lists, a library of books and/or refer employees to private coaching with a career consultant. This is especially effective for individuals who are struggling to identify skills and motivators because most people take themselves for granted.
  • Apply innovative strategies: No matter how small, an organization can offer some strategies to help their employees explore careers. Assign a personal career mentor, create brief job-shadowing opportunities by pairing employees with colleagues or managers for various periods of time so employees can get a feel for other jobs they may be interested in. Finally, the simple tactic of supporting time for informational interviews works well.
  • Incorporate careers into performance management: It’s well-known individual employees rarely set aside time for their own career development, so it is important both for individuals as well as for organizational planning to include this in the annual performance review.

Work with the employee to determine training and career goals and set a plan in place. Keep in mind your organizational needs.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.


The mass exodus of baby boomers has been on the minds of business leaders for quite some time. While the exodus hasn’t happened as quickly as first thought, the transition is indeed beginning to make its mark. The situation as it’s now developing will create a significant dilemma for all types of corporations and organizations in general.


The dilemma is twofold: first, it is well known that the incoming new generation of leaders (typically aged 35-49) does not have the skills or experience of more senior leaders. While this to be expected, recent research conducted by i4cp, a Florida based research firm, identified these younger generation leaders were lacking skills in five critical leadership areas. This included critical thinking, the ability to create a vision and engage others, the ability to collaborate with other areas of a business and manage change, overall leadership and understanding how the different business sectors needed to work together.

Secondly, my own professional experience suggests younger leaders have higher expectations with respect to salary and compensation. They are also more demanding with respect to perks and other benefits such as vacation, vehicles, flexibility and executive education. As well, many young people are impatient, relying too much on their graduate education instead of being willing to engage in a longer apprenticeship type of career model. In other words, they want to leapfrog up the career ladder and, if opportunities are not found in their current employment, they won’t think twice about moving to another firm.


Where does this situation leave our current business leaders, especially since it’s well known that a large percentage have no succession planning strategies in place? What solutions would help to rectify this situation? I believe that working with an external expert and undertaking the following strategies would provide significant benefit to your organization.


1. Demographic survey – conduct a survey of all your employees with respect to their age demographics as well as the skills required for each job.


2. Map your situation – develop a risk management chart for each and every job in your organization and identify at least two individuals who could move into each job along with their potential timeframe. Confirm gaps and risks.

3. Identify training needs – prioritize those jobs which are crucial to the ongoing success of your organization, identify the competencies and training required for a successor and create a career development plan.


4. Identify potential internal talent – while good job performance may be evident, undertake a series of psychometric assessments to identify individuals who have the skills in the five critical areas mentioned above. Being a strategic and visionary thinker is a unique skill and, if you don’t have this skill within your organization, you will have to bring in an external candidate.


5. Map your candidate pool – once you have completed your assessments, create a map of your talent pool. This will enable you to determine short and long-term gaps and create a development plan for each individual. Invest in your people.


6. Link competencies to a strategic business plan – after the competencies have been developed for each job role, compare and contrast them to each of the strategic business goals. Determine which of the competencies will be the drivers to move you forward and then assess your strengths and weaknesses for each.


7. Confirm organizational values – while the younger generation might want higher compensation, most in my experience seek better life/work balance than their parents. Take time to examine your organizational values and workplace philosophy. Determine what would attract new employees, what would set you aside from your competitors and utilize these elements in your recruitment strategies.


8. Develop a recruitment strategy – finding the right candidate with the right skills at the right time and getting the cultural fit just right is not as easy as it looks. Most high caliber candidates are happy in their current work and are not on the job hunt. They need to be tapped on the shoulder and invited to look at your opportunity. Many times this must be done on a highly confidential basis.


As a seasoned executive search professional, I am now seeing many organizations moving into panic mode as their employees begin sharing their retirement plans, sometimes three at a time.


Effective planning and a view to the future will prevent this type of organizational risk.