A Changing World

The other day I looked around the office and I noticed most of the people working at my company were baby boomers. I am not panicking because several of us are planning to work until we turn 70 due to our retirement accounts taking a hit from the last recession. There are however people who plan to retire at 65 or even sooner. While they don’t totally know what is in store for them moving forward, they have decided to move on to the next challenge in their lives.

Replacing people in a small company is no easy task because those that have been with a company for 20 or more years have developed very special and specific skill sets that are not easily found in the marketplace. In fact, they usually are performing the job of two people and do it with such ease and confidence that you learn to take them for granted.

I started my company in 1989. We evolved over the years by adding services and responding to clients who asked us to help solve their “people” challenges. We created new services and modeled them under the philosophy of always exceeding expectations and creating a company that would be a resource for our clients. What that means is even though we might not provide the specific service a client needs, we will be a resource and find out who can help you. Our culture started out as a small company with a desire to survive. We have evolved into an organization where employees are engaged and take responsibility for their own success as well as the company’s success. We encourage active participation in the community, volunteer activities, and give employees the freedom to come and go as they please and take as much vacation as they need.

Yet, we are not alone in having to figure out how to replace people who frankly feel very irreplaceable.  Perhaps even more importantly, what got us to this point as a company may not get us to where we need to go in the future. The three generations following the baby boomers all have different ways of thinking and how they approach work. What is exciting for them is different from those of us who refer to ourselves as seniors.

The culture we created will need to be revisited, and will need to match with what it will take to be successful moving forward. Changing a culture doesn’t mean throwing everything out and starting over. But it certainly does mean company leaders must be open to change and ask more questions while listening carefully to rethink how we want our companies to look moving forward.

One of my biggest fears is technology and its potential to replace people in the companies we work for and the work we do. There seems to be no limit on what artificial intelligence can do and what services it will replace. I personally have never embraced technology but rather rely on support people to help me accomplish my goals while never learning enough to stand on my own.

The bottom line is the times they are a changing and they call for some serious strategic planning in order to keep up. You, like me may want to work or need to work until you are 70. You may not have your own company around in the future if you don’t start planning now.