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Grammys and Passing the Baton

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The 56th annual Grammys’ provided a glimpse into the evolution of music. In a rare display of old school and new generation talent, songwriters, producers and collaborators celebrated music through the years. Robin Thicke helped breath life into classical Chicago songs. Carol King and Sara Bareilles faced each other on opposite pianos to sing Bareilles’ hit Brave. King was so moved and impressed by Bareilles’ performance that she felt the future of music was in good hands. And other old and new acts came together demonstrating the connection and balance of tradition and new approaches.

Today many organizations are experiencing a similar shift in creating pathways for younger workers to take over the reigns of organizational leadership. Passing the baton through traditional succession planning approaches has seen a marked shift. The ‘old school’ methods and strategies (think 3-5-10 year plans) used to retain, grow and scale a younger population is antiquated. Organizations are now forced to adopt new models that keep pace with the career progression desires of a generation that learns faster and equally demand an opportunity to implement new competencies immediately.

Restructuring the traditional talent assessment processes related to succession is difficult. Most of the programs were established to provide a sufficient timetable for work experience and growth in competencies between an existing rising star and an up-and-comer in the organization. In a perfect system this approach builds your talent ‘bench’ to backfill key talent at all levels. Unfortunately most of these systems are highly political, mired in subjectivity (ie do I like you? Add value to me personally?). Millennials are less patient with playing the political games of advancement and will choose to leave a lucrative career path and start over at a new company if it makes sense to do so.

Developing a balanced view with organizational succession planning against the Gen Y desire to grow quickly actually requires collaboration with experienced leaders and managers. The process doesn’t have to be arduous but it must be flexible. Mentor programs are a great way to explore new ways of identifying young talent and aligning them to key projects. Planning done strategically, like great art, can be music to everyone’s ears.

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