The wave has begun…and if you’re not with me here, I speak of the tsunami of impending retirements in the nonprofit and government sectors that is headed toward us quickly. Many studies have predicted this, but the economic down turn and drop in retirement accounts of our boomer friends delayed it briefly. We are seeing the beginning of a mass exodus. I’ve noticed the shift starting just in the last 9 months, in my small community, with my clients and the organizations I work and volunteer with. What is more concerning than the shift, is the response. The shock, dismay and fear I’ve seen on faces when boomer executives give notice is quickly accompanied with “how are we going to replace you?”, “how can we find somebody to manage all that you do every day?” and most famously ”there is nobody here that can do or is willing to do your job, what are we going to do?”
Did you hear that sound? It was the collective sigh of frustration of my GenX colleagues. For nearly two decades, my generation has been overlooked far more than our predecessors were when they were our age, and with bigger economic impact. The majority of GenX’ers in public/government jobs and NPO’s are still in middle management, with huge student loan debt, little to no retirement savings and working under a “grey ceiling.” To top it off, we are the generation with a disproportionate percentage of mortgage crisis victims, we are the first generation in the history of our country to NOT do as well financially as our parents and we have workaholic boomers and traditionalists who just won’t retire. Add to that, the prevailing GenX belief that there are many ways we could and should do business differently than our predecessors…if we only had a chance. So yes, we have some anxious X’ers wanting to step into those executive jobs that boomers are vacating, and we welcome the tsunami.
The dichotomy between the anxious ready to change things up get out of my way X’ers and the fear of the unknown/there is nobody who will do it like me and with my experience attitude of the boomers is played out nearly every time I hear the word retirement. Which is usually followed by a tense argument about the value of experience vs. the value of pragmatic results based leadership. Then it quickly degrades into dissent about who are we going to hire to fill this void?
The solution you ask? Well for one, I’d suggest you approach the void by not looking at it as a void. The tsunami of job title transitions is an opportunity for change and growth. Both GenX and Millennials are already in the trenches and we surpass boomers and traditionalists in academic preparation, prior volunteer experience and innovative entrepreneurial ventures. Instead of looking for somebody to fill your shoes, look for somebody to provide a new direction and a breath of fresh air. Approaching recruitment, even in this economic time, with an opportunity lens will likely get you the candidates you really want, not the warmed over mediocre version of what you already have. Secondly, LISTEN. The majority culture (boomers in this case) are classic for “knowing” what is right, but not always seeing alternatives that might also be reality. Lastly, have a robust and diverse hiring committee, comprised of various generations, experience levels and expertise areas. THIS will bring in your best candidates and your best match, regardless of generation.
As for retirement. Welcome it, embrace it, it is not to be feared. Being a GenX ”slacker”, I look forward to the days that I get to retire and choose how I spend every moment of every day. Welcome it!