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Diamonds in the Rough

Retaining mid-career personnel will be important to a utility’s success.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2006

“war college” experience, which would build their capability to provide strategic, decisive, and time-sensitive leadership.

Key #3: Customize, Customize, Customize:  The curriculum will need to be customized around the specific needs of the individual, maximizing the ROI and providing the organization with replacement talent in a time frame necessary to address the corporate need.

Generic approaches to senior leadership development tend to fall short in those circumstances, where time to grow into the job is limited. War-college simulations, if designed effectively, can compress years of experience into a matter of months.

Understanding Demographics and Securing Knowledge

A first step toward an aging workforce solution is to identify the organization’s mission-critical personnel. But the demographic challenge is two-fold. There will be those executives that will want to retire early and those that will work until the maximum age. Identifying these groups will make all the difference in a utility’s HR strategy.

For example, the first demographic group comes to realize it can maximize retirement income by retiring around age 55, taking pensions and securing second-career jobs that leverage their expertise. Most of these professionals will have defined-benefit pension plans that date back some 30 years.

The second group of potential retirees will be those individuals who elect simply to ride it out until they reach retirement age (typically between 62 and 65 years of age). More employees are taking the path of keeping their options open and not playing their cards until the last moment.

One effective strategy is phased retirement. A phased retirement guarantees post-retirement work for mission-critical personnel in exchange for advanced notification of retirement. The company offers mission-critical personnel two to three days of work (or other arrangement) for six months to a year after retirement in return for advanced notification (typically a year). In so doing, the corporation can gain valuable intelligence and the transfer of learning while minimizing its exposure. It also brings order and helps prioritize the succession process.

The phased retirement period should be used to ensure the timely transfer of knowledge assets through a comprehensive mentoring program. Since knowledge is power, most people traditionally are reluctant to share their mission-critical knowledge for fear that it would devalue their personal worth. Phased retirement takes these concerns off the table.

Striking Second-Career Gold

In a stark reversal of the 1990s, corporations are out panning for second-career gold. These second careerists could bring a wealth of knowledge with relatively limited investment required by the company. Some companies have come to realize that these human-resource assets can buy a company sufficient time to develop the next generation of mission-critical personnel and bridge the demographic gap.

Second-career personnel have unique needs. They are not in the market for specific benefits but instead are looking to enhance their retirement portfolio. Customizing dollars expended for the standard benefit package around 401(k) and retiree medical can be a lure that differentiates your company from the pack.

One company that required a cadre of very experienced personnel has more then filled its needs by offering a phased retiree medical plan. Under this scenario, the