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Developing the Next Generation

02/18/2012 1:41 AM

It seems like every couple of years, management at just about any company comes to a realization that as its workforce ages and comes close to retirement, they will be losing a valuable resource.

Some companies seek to encourage their senior people (operations, maintenance, engineering, ...) to share their life experiences with the junior people, but find that their seniors don't want to share it and the juniors don't want to hear it.

Other companies have mentoring programs that are effective, but because of limitations in their scope, only solve a small fraction of the brain drain.

And others simply accept that they will lose this experience and that they must continually rebuild it.

How does your company prevent this large loss of experience, knowledge, skills, etc? What has been effective for you over the years?

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#1

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/18/2012 8:47 AM

Really? Most companies I've known will periodically lop off their senior staff to shave their overhead costs down. Their attitude is 'try not to let the door smack you in the backside as you leave.'

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/18/2012 10:22 AM

Yep. Happened to me 20 years ago. It was voluntary, but the intent was the same. Funny, now my son works there.


It's about to happen to my wife. The worst thing is that for the last year she has come home at least once a week saying, "Well that's it. I'll be gone next quarter." So I have to live with doom and gloom and she's never sure when she'll be out the door. (Major hospital chain)


I think most companies would rather have lower overhead than quality employees. The upper level administrator's bonuses are larger that way. That's what it's all about, any more. (Unfortunately)

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Anonymous Poster #1
#10
In reply to #2

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/20/2012 5:04 PM

Well, it's largely because the proverbial "bean counters" opinions/analysis are given more weight by "management" than technical managers. I think it is much rarer that someone who is responsible for technical departments (and others, too) is glad to see all the experience shown the door. Outsourcing comes under the same heading. Why did manufacturing disappear so much in this country? Was it really competition from products made with cheap labor? Other countries seemed to be able to use tarrifs, etc., to help with these types of issues. I don't buy it. (Literally and figuratively.)

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#3

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/18/2012 2:50 PM

Software, automation, robotics, utilization of cheap off-shore labor, lowering quality cost of healthcare, leasing employees, eliminating lowering benefits, sub out jobs to illegals other cost effective companies...

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#4

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/18/2012 11:16 PM

In my company (a manufacturing business) before I lose a well seasoned employee I hire a new person and remove all responsibility from the soon to retire employee. I have the retiring employee work with the new hire for as long as it takes to bring the new hire up to speed. This process usually lasts four to six weeks. Even though it is expensive it has always been worth the extra salary.

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#5

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/19/2012 12:06 AM

I have a problem. I, mostly agree - in the treatment. Retaining experience? what for?

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Anonymous Poster #1
#11
In reply to #5

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/20/2012 5:06 PM

For the same reason that you don't hire a kid off the street to do your car repairs, major plumbing work, build a house for you, etc.

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Commentator

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#6

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/19/2012 12:36 AM

Good day all

My experience: After 25 years with one employer I retired and was asked to stay on, which I did for 12 months and I am now employed as a consultant by one of my former employer's cliemts. But South Africa is seriously skills challenged! But there is no substitute for experience.

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#7

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/19/2012 1:48 AM

How about restructuring the activity in the business so that the useful information is stored by a method other than the memory of employees? Then you might be able to get rid of all the employees.

OR

I had a friend who tried to retire so he could have a little peace with his wife and family, but he wound up working till he died, tired, sick, and obsessed. The process he was supervising is still not back to his standards.

SO

What do we do?

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#8

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/19/2012 2:44 AM

Its discussions like this one that have the tendency to bring out the cynics in all of us.

I have no doubt that there exists in many (if not most) companies, supervisors who would cast off individuals without regards to the consequences (loss of experience, drive, ambition, etc) in order to fulfill their milestones or to contribute to their own bonuses.

However, I have a greater faith in those who look beyond the moment and I can't help but feel that they are deeply concerned about how their company will continue to produce great products without having to continually restart their experience base.

Apple will not be able to continue to produce mind-bending products in 10 years if the experience gained by the engineers of the last five years isn't progressively inculcated into their new engineers today.

Isaac Newton noted that his accomplishments were due to the fact that he stood on the shoulders of giants.

New and less experienced engineers in the workforce today also need to have the shoulders of giants to stand on, in order to progress and to produce these great products to come. Within our own companies: Do we give them the shoulders of giants to stand on, or do we leave them to their own works?

The educational system today does a relatively decent job of preparing people for the work field by giving them the knowledge to start their careers. Graduate programs develop them further and instill in them the concepts of research and development. In order for successful companies to continually develop the next generation, do we need to need to produce something like a graduate program within our companies (think Apple University!).

Obviously this would be a large (or most likely huge) effort. So is there something less ambitious that continually develops in these newer engineers and scientists the necessary skills and experiences that they and their companies can benefit from?

Who has produced the success stories in developing our next generation and how do you do it?

Large successes would be grand, but even moderate successes are appreciated.

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#9

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/19/2012 1:38 PM

I was one of those who was forced to retire but was asked to return as a consultant. Maybe the business school graduates who set up mandatory retirement aren't as smart as they thought they were? A similar cognitive dissonnance occurs when, rather than promoting from within, they assume someone who wants to leave his present employer is better qualified.

My son-in-law was hired by Exxon right out of college and has climbed the ladder very successfully. They seem to know how to train/mentor their employees. It builds loyalty and motivation.

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Anonymous Poster #1
#12
In reply to #9

Re: Developing the Next Generation

02/20/2012 5:11 PM

While your report of your son's experience sounds good and makes Exxon seem like they know what they are doing -- they, in fact, do know what they are doing (at least the humans inside the beast), and it ain't necessarily the "right" thing. If corporations are people, many of them have no feelings or humanity about them. Mentoring is the better way to assure a continuity of experience and knowledge. But, in today's world, humans don't have much say or recourse with their "super-human" counterparts -- corporations.

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