Fill talent pipeline now to prepare for boomer exodus

Jessica Davidson
Jessica Davidson
Roz Bedell
Roz Bedell

The mass exodus of baby boomers has begun. What will you do when your most impactful leaders turn in their retirement notices, one right after the other? Do you have qualified employees within the ranks who can jump in and take the reins?

Across Colorado, we’ve seen turnover increase as employees change jobs and key leaders retire. The idea of succession planning often doesn’t occur to business and human resources leaders until those notices come in — and that’s when the scramble begins.

We propose a different approach, one that will allow you to fill your talent pipeline to capture the knowledge and spirit of your business and effectively transfer it to the emerging leaders within your work force. We blend succession planning, leadership development and career planning to help you retain key staff and keep your business thriving.

Design and structure. As you envision the future of your organization, consider the characteristics of your culture that make you great now and how great will be defined in the future. What’s happening that will have major effects? As you design the components of your plan, reflect on these questions. Your approach to this plan should be a thoughtful one.

Key positions. Here’s an opportunity to take stock of organizational knowledge so you can effectively transfer it when the time comes. This involves a profile of positions across your organization you consider mission-critical. They might include leadership roles, positions historically hard to fill or ones that require a unique or specific level of subject matter expertise. Each profile should document essential functions, key outcomes and major competencies you deem important. It’s here where you’ll determine the kind of career tracks that would work well for your organization, and you can begin to lay out the framework for your talent pipeline.

Competency model. Take a look at the key competencies identified in your position profiles and make sure they’re included in your organization’s overall competency model. Define the competencies across your organization that are common for every employee, specific to a job function or job family and specific to leadership roles. Once the competencies are laid out, determine how each of the competencies will be assessed.  Assessments and performance criteria are paramount because they’ll become the standard against which emerging leaders will be measured.

Leadership development. Your leadership development program should then be linked to your key position profiles to ensure you’re preparing your next-generation leaders in alignment with your business needs. Design your program to fit your culture, systems and preferences.  The most effective leaders emerge after successfully moving through four stages of development: expertise, credibility, execution and strategy. Use a combination of activities to address each of these stages to produce the best leadership outcomes.

Emerging leaders. These are individuals who have the desire and potential to step into mission-critical positions. Potential is measured by a person’s aspirations, behaviors, engagement at work and proficiency in leadership competencies. The benefit to identifying emerging leaders is the ability to build and maintain a ready talent pipeline, a key factor in securing the continuity of business. Once identified, they’re placed on a career track, enrolled in the leadership development program and assessed annually for placement in the pipeline.

Review and evaluate. Take a look at your finished plan and determine whether or not it lines up with your strategies and vision. Review all of its elements and find your vulnerabilities. What could get in the way of long-term success?  What systems or policies will support the plan and which ones represent barriers? Evaluate the plan every year.

Ultimately, if you want to leave a legacy, you must plan for it. Careful planning at the moment you become aware of the need is essential to secure a seamless transition into the future. Don’t wait for the retirement notices. Act now. You’ll be glad you did.

Jessica Davidson and Roz Bedell are senior consultants with Arrow Performance Group in Denver, which serves clients with strategic alignment, talent management, business analysis and design and implementation services. For more information, visit the website at The two recently lead a presentation for the Western Colorado Human Resource Association in Grand Junction. For more information about the group, visit