Talent Management When the Old Outnumber the Young Tuesday, Jul 31 2012 

by HBR’s Tammy Erickson

The population used to be shaped like a pyramid: lots of young people, a medium number of middle aged, and a few old folks. But the demographic geometry has changed radically in just the last few decades in many parts of the world — and will shift further over the decades ahead in still others. We now have diamond- or rectangular-shaped populations in many countries and will at some point have inverted pyramids — the old will outnumber the young.

The United Nations’ most recent study on demographic trends confirms these changes and puts to rest any assumption that the pyramid-shape will return. The former ratio of old-to-young already no longer exists in many countries and, much of the world will soon follow. Yet many of our talent management practices today are derived from this old idea.

A combination of lower birth rates and longer life expectancies has conspired to create new geometric shapes. These two major demographic shifts are so significant that Peter Drucker predicted that historians, looking back at the 20th Century, will view the demographic changes as the most important events of the century (more so than technology, industrialization, globalization and so on).

The first is substantially lower birth or fertility rates. Rates are falling below replacement level of 2.1 children per woman, stabilizing at about 1.85 children per woman in many parts of the world. Western Europe, the U.S., China and Japan are all under replacement levels today. China fell from 5.8 children per woman in 1950 to 2.3 in 1980 (before the start of the One Child policy). Africa fell from about 5 children per woman in 1950 to just over 4 by 2000. Children have shifted on the “great balance sheet of life” — from assets in an agrarian society to liabilities in an industrial society — and people are choosing to have fewer.

The second big change is longer life expectancies. Human life expectancy averaged about 35 years for most of the last 1000 years of man’s history on earth, but has more than doubled to 75-80 years today. We are experiencing, for the first time, a new life stage: people have never before had a period of non-child-rearing, healthy, active adulthood. In China, the number 20-24 year olds and 65+ year old is about equal today; in just 20 years, by 2030, the old will outnumber the young by 150 million.

For companies, the new geometry requires rethinking many aspects of our organizations. Many of today’s organizational designs and talent management practices are based on the idea that the population, and specifically the workforce, is shaped like a pyramid. As we prepare for a workforce in which older workers outnumber the young, we need to redesign many of our standard approaches.

Here’s an initial list of practices that are derived from the old assumption of a population pyramid, along with the questions you should begin asking:

    • Mandatory retirement — Will there be enough young people to replace those who leave? For many skill sets, the answer is increasingly “no.” How can you make your workplace more attractive to older workers, to encourage talented employees to stay on longer?

    • Linear careers — Do people always want to take on “more?” Career paths today assume that taking on more responsibility is the only logical move. One way to make your organization more attractive to older workers is to offer options to do less. Many people would like to stay active, but few want to work as hard at age 70 as they did at age 50. How can you create bell-shaped-curve career options that allow people to decelerate toward the end of their work lives?

    • Headcount-based metrics — Are your metrics limiting your ability to tap the widest possible pool of talent? Are you able to job-share and use part-time and cyclic workers?

    • Recruiting initiatives aimed primarily at young hires — If your business model depends on an influx of young talent, recognize that you’re going to be challenged to hire a disproportionate share of the available hires. Are you really good at recruiting? If you can use talent at multiple levels, make sure your recruiting investments are geared to seek out people of all ages, from a variety of sources?

    • Career paths that always move “up.” Promotion has become a standard expectation — a primary form of reward and the key source of variety. It’s how we get to do new things and make more money. This won’t be a feasible approach in the new geometry. How can you give people variety without moving them up? How should you provide additional compensation opportunities? Is it appropriate to pay for breadth (people who can fill multiple roles)?

  • Prestige-based titles — Titles can lock organizations in to an “always up” career path design. People are reluctant to take on a different role, if the title associated with it isn’t as prestigious as the one they currently hold. How can you begin to move toward task-based (Leader of xyz Initiative), rather than prestige-based (Vice President) titles?


What’s Your Influencing Style? Sunday, Jul 29 2012 

by HBR’s Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe

Effective leadership today relies more than ever on influencing others — impacting their ideas, opinions, and actions. While influence has always been a valuable managerial skill, today’s highly collaborative organizations make it essential. Consider how often you have to influence people who don’t even report to you in order to accomplish your objectives. Success depends on your ability to effectively influence both your direct reports and the people over whom you have no direct authority.

Have you ever thought about how you influence others? The tactics you use? We are all aware that people use different influencing tactics, but did you realize that we each naturally default to the same tactics every time? Or that the tactics we default to are also the ones to which we are most receptive when being influenced?

It is these preferred tactics that define our influencing style. Analyzing the different influencing tactics, researchers have identified up to nine primary influencing tactics. In our quest to further understand personal influencing styles, we did additional research to build on the existing knowledge base. From our research, we’ve identified five distinct influencing styles: rationalizing, asserting, negotiating, inspiring, and bridging.

You may have an idea what your style is just from hearing these labels, but the most accurate way to identify your style is with an influence style indicator — a self-scoring assessment that classifies your style based on answers to questions about preferred influencing tactics. But even without the indicator, here are some questions you can ask yourself to begin to understand your style:

  • Rationalizing: Do you use logic, facts, and reasoning to present your ideas? Do you leverage your facts, logic, expertise, and experience to persuade others?
  • Asserting: Do you rely on your personal confidence, rules, law, and authority to influence others? Do you insist that your ideas are heard and considered, even when others disagree? Do you challenge the ideas of others when they don’t agree with yours? Do you debate with or pressure others to get them to see your point of view?
  • Negotiating: Do you look for compromises and make concessions in order to reach an outcome that satisfies your greater interest? Do you make tradeoffs and exchanges in order to meet your larger interests? If necessary, will you delay the discussion until a more opportune time?
  • Inspiring: Do you encourage others toward your position by communicating a sense of shared mission and exciting possibility? Do you use inspirational appeals, stories, and metaphors to encourage a shared sense of purpose?
  • Bridging: Do you attempt to influence outcomes by uniting or connecting with others? Do you rely on reciprocity, engaging superior support, consultation, building coalitions, and using personal relationships to get people to agree with your position?

While answering these questions, take your style a step further. How often does it work for you? Are you more successful with certain types of people? Have you ever wondered why? Since there are five different influencing styles, using only your preferred style has the potential to undermine your influence with as many as four out of five people.

Gaining awareness about our own influencing style and those of others is especially critical in light of today’s fast-paced and stressful work environments, and here’s why: When we are operating unconsciously out of a preference (our style) and not seeing the results we expect, we actually have the tendency to intensify our preferred behavior — even when it’s not working!

If your individual success depends on gaining the cooperation of people over whom you have no direct authority, this should concern you. The way to begin to increase your odds of influencing more people is to learn to recognize and use each of the five styles.

Becoming aware that there are influencing styles other than yours is a good start. To further increase your influence, you must learn what each style sounds like when it’s being used effectively and ineffectively. Gaining this awareness will help you recognize when the style you’re using isn’t working and how to determine one that will.

What’s your influencing style? And what are you going to do about it?

Seven Reasons Salespeople Talk Too Much Friday, Jul 27 2012 

by Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power

Why do we often talk more than we should? When other people talk too much, we notice immediately. When we talk too much, everyone else notices except us.

Here are a few possible explanations:

  1. Anxiety. People who are anxious use an avalanche of words to avoid dealing with potential conflict (like a prospect saying “no”). Instead of balancing talking with listening, they believe that their wall of words will protect them from what they imagine as a threat. They often refuse to give up control of the conversation by adding a trail of words that echo the ones that they’ve expressed previously.
  2. Lack of preparation. The less clear we are on any given subject, the more words it will take us to talk about the subject. Here is an eye-opening exercise. Ask a salesperson to make a presentation about your company as if you were a new prospect. Time the presentation. Next, ask the salesperson to write a brief, but concise description of your product or service in 180 words. Now, read the copy at normal speed. How much time did it take? About one minute. It should not take more time to engage a prospect.
  3. Stress. When we are tired we tend to ramble and our ability to concentrate begins to decrease. Our brain responds to mental fatigue by producing more words and less meaning. The cure: Get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise regularly.
  4. Lack of a roadmap. Do you know where your conversation will lead before you start talking? If not, write down the answers to three questions: What is my call objective? What information do I need to get? What information do I plan to give? Stay on track, stay on message and don’t skip vital steps.
  5. Lack of a time budget. Decide to invest a specific amount of time for each call and stick to it. If you are a manager and you want to save time, conduct your meetings standing up. This forces people to be brief and to the point. If you meet with longwinded people, ask the moment they get on your nerves: “We have another five minutes, what else do we need to cover?
  6. Lack of humility. Some people think that everything they say is profound and important. When they talk, they experience a rush of good feelings and they often fall in love with their own words. They may use catch phrases and complex language to impress their customers. Being expressive is nice, however good relationships require us to be receptive to others.
  7. Ineffective thinking. While some salespeople continue to hopscotch from problem to problem, others quickly get to the core of a customer’s problem, solve it and close the sale. Decide which thinking style would be most helpful to achieve your objective: convergent thinking or divergent thinking? Convergent thinking leads to a focal point in the middle of a circle, divergent thinking radiates – like the sun – away from the center in every direction. Divergent thinking opens people’s minds; it leads to new ideas, thoughts and possibilities. As a result, the conversation goes on and on. Convergent thinking leads to conclusions, and concrete results, like a closed sale.

Your Hairdresser Can Help Catch Cancer Thursday, Jul 26 2012 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Make a list of your most intimate relationships and, in all probability, your hairdresser or barber should be on it. You’ve probably swapped many stories during washings and trimmings, and maybe you’ve even traded advice about life and love. (And, really, how many other people run their fingers through your hair?!)

Now, according to the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, there’s even more that your hairdresser can and should do — alert you about possible skin cancer.

Since the only thing that my hairdresser has ever alerted me about has been which shampoo would add the most volume to my hair, I called Alan Geller, MPH, RN, senior lecturer in the school’s department of society, human development and health, because he recently led a study on the topic.



Who else sees — really sees — your scalp and the back of your neck? Understanding that unique view, Geller and his colleagues wondered if hair professionals use, or could use, that perspective to help look for skin cancers. If so, it could save lives, because while melanomas of the scalp and neck represent only about 6% of all melanomas in the US, they account for about 10% of all melanoma deaths. Geller told me that one reason scalp and neck cancers are such high-risk cancers is that we can’t easily see those areas of the body, so cancers there tend to elude early detection — and the later a cancer is detected, the greater the risk for death.



The researchers analyzed surveys completed by 203 male and female hairdressers and barbers from 17 salons in the Houston area. There were 43 questions total, including questions about knowledge of the ABCD rule of detecting cancerous lesions (asymmetry-border-color-diameter), personal practices in caring for their own skin (such as wearing sunscreen and hats) and health communication practices.

What researchers discovered: Although fewer than one-third of these professionals had had any formal training in skin cancer detection, many of them seemed to understand the essential elements — 90% agreed that a customer should see a doctor for a mole that’s changing in size or that bleeds… 89% for a mole that’s changing color… and 78% for a mole that itches. More than one-third (37%) said that they had actually inspected the scalps of more than half of their customers in the past month, and 29% said that they had examined the necks of more than half of their customers in the past month. Researchers were also happily surprised to find that 58% of the hairdressers had already recommended that a customer see a doctor about an abnormal mole that they had found. In addition, Geller was encouraged by the fact that most respondents recognized the importance of their role — half said that they would like to receive formal skin cancer education, and 69% said that they would give customers a skin cancer pamphlet if they had one.



Most people see their physician about twice a year, and only 15% of people see a dermatologist annually. But most people see hairdressers or barbers much more often, so their observations could be extremely valuable, said Geller. Right now, there are no cosmetology rules or incentives that encourage hair professionals across the US to perform skin cancer screenings on customers, but Geller envisions a future where hair professionals are on the front line of skin cancer sightings, alerting customers about suspicious skin lesions and recommending that they see their doctors.

The Harvard group isn’t stopping there. Geller’s colleague, researcher Elizabeth Bailey, MD, is working with the Melanoma Foundation of New England on a 20-minute pilot program to educate hair professionals about checking customers for scalp and neck skin cancers. I asked the foundation’s executive director, Deb Girard, whether Daily Health News could see the brochure that she and Dr. Bailey have developed. She was delighted to share it — you can see it at http://www.mfne.org/prevent-melanoma/the-skinny-on-skin. You’re welcome to download it for free and share it with your own hair professional.

Next on the agenda: Massage therapists, whose work gives them the chance to look closely at other parts of their customers’ skin. Geller reminded me that skin cancer is the only visible cancer and repeated a saying that he loves, “Melanoma writes its message on the skin for all of us to see.” He wants more people to be able to read that message.


Alan C. Geller, MPH, RN, senior lecturer, department of society, human development, and health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.

Deb Girard, executive director, Melanoma Foundation of New England, Concord, Massachusetts.

How to counsel employees with attitude problems Wednesday, Jul 25 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

With some employees, the problem isn’t a matter of ability, it’s a matter of attitude. This can manifest itself in everything from quiet disobedience to outright insubordination.

How should you respond? Rather than becoming entangled in a debate about the employee’s dysfunctional attitude, address the situation strictly as a behavioral problem. That way, it’s not only easier to resolve, but also a better way to make a case for dismissal.

Your first step is to document the behavior. Write down specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you, hurt team morale, damage productivity or reflect badly on the organization. Don’t forget to record nonverbal behaviors, such as rolling eyes, clenching fists and staring into space.

Narrow the issue to the precise problem. Identify exactly what type of behavior the attitude has caused. This list may help:
• Carelessness
• Complaining
• Disruptive or explosive conduct
• Inattention to work
• Insensitivity to others
• Insubordination
• Laziness
• Negative/cynical posture
• Surly/inconsiderate/rude talk
• Excessive socializing
Record the frequency of such misconduct, plus how it affects work flow and colleagues’ performance. List good business reasons why the behavior must end.

Meeting with the employee
When you sit down with employees to discuss attitude problems, try to determine whether they have a reason for their behavior. Is it a grudge against you or against the company in general? If you can’t get to the root of the problem, don’t think you can’t resolve it.

Describe the behaviors you won’t tolerate, and tell the employee firmly that those behaviors must stop. Too often, managers fail in their counseling efforts because they skip this (sometimes uncomfortable) step. Also, make sure the employee understands why the behavior must end. Explain how it’s causing a problem.

Also, follow up with a description of the preferred behavior, such as cooperation, helpfulness and courteousness. Don’t feel bad about being direct. Every manager has the right to demand that employees behave in a courteous and cooperative manner.

Finally, give the employee the opportunity to speak. The person may be unaware of what he or she is doing or not realize how it impedes other people’s work. It may also turn out that the attitude problem is a symptom of a more serious problem that needs referral to the employee assistance program.