Although some baby boomers are delaying retirement for several years because of the economy, the United States still faces a deficit of experienced employees and managers.
According to the Office of Personnel Management reports, nearly 300,000 full-time employees will retire between 2006 and 2010, and twice that many are eligible to retire.
Generation X cannot fill the gap — there aren’t enough of them (46 million vs. about 80 million boomers), and Generation Y (often called Millennials) still lacks maturity and experience.
“Some Millennials bring their parents with them to job interviews,” said Nick Tasler, director of research and development for TalentSmart and co-author of the report “The Leadership Vacuum: What We Lose with the Next Generation.”
Employers need to decide whether to cater recruiting strategies to accommodate Generation Y or whether to draw the line. But as competition for workers increases, nationally and globally, companies might see the wisdom of doing both — by encouraging the emotional development of Millennials and Generation Xers, so they can fill the gap in leadership.
“Emotional intelligence accounts for as much as 58 percent of job performance from supervisors through CEOs,” according to the report. “Technical skill has virtually nothing to do with good leadership.”
There is a steady increase in emotional intelligence during each decade of age increase — even within generations.
“So it’s not a generation (problem) — it’s due to age and maturity,” Tasler said, which is good because age cannot be accelerated, but “you can accelerate the learning process of emotional intelligence — if you make a focused effort to do so.”
Failure to address and manage an emotion — whether it’s frustration, anxiety, anger or excitement — “clouds your judgment for the rest of the day. You won’t be inspiring as a leader or you may not keep your eye on the ball,” Tasler said.
Generation Y has grown up with technology in “a world that’s all about texting and e-mailing,” he said. “They don’t value face-to-face communication. But digital communication cannot convey emotion the same way as face to face does.”
And body language, tone of voice and vocal inflection account for 70 percent to 80 percent of communication.
“Your e-mail may sound stern even though you’re smiling as you write it,” Tasler said. “Then things get misinterpreted or people get brushed off — this is amplified with digital communication.”
Employers are starting to recognize the value of emotional intelligence and provide training programs in the workplace, Tasler said, but some industries, notably information technology and engineering, have been much slower to make the transition.
Tasler said that an aptitude for people-management and social skills in the workplace can, and should, be taught.
If companies and executives want to retain and attract younger workers and have effective leadership, he said, they need to familiarize themselves with the value of emotional intelligence education.
“A company that doesn’t value EQ will limp along based on technical skills and the old way of doing things,” Tasler said. “Eventually, they start losing talent and fail to be able to attract new talent.”
And in such companies, Generation X will start leaving.
Baby boomers are loyal to companies, Tasler said, but if leaders don’t “behave with emotional intelligence, Generation X and Y will leave. You’ll start losing people — let alone being able to attract new people.”
Companies can measure the four core EQ skills — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management — so employees and managers know their skill level.
Assessing and measuring emotional intelligence is crucial, Tasler said, because otherwise, employees won’t believe it’s important.
After measuring EQ, companies should provide development initiatives, such as executive coaching and a training curriculum or self-guided learning, and follow up six to 12 months later with reassessment, feedback and suggestions for further improvement.
“The brain is plastic,” Tasler said. “And doing the right thing repeatedly creates new neural connections that make the behavior natural.”
This “ultra-competitive, fast-paced global marketplace won’t afford us the time to sit back and wait for the aging process to run its course — (thereby) preparing twenty-somethings for leadership roles today,” the report said. “If we don’t teach them how to manage themselves, is it reasonable to expect them to lead us toward a prosperous future?”