Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Narrowing the Gender Gap

In the U.S., women account for over half of all entry level professional jobs, but only 37% of mid-management, 28% of VP/Senior Management, and 14% of Board and Senior Executive positions.

Narrowing the gender gap in leadership requires a critical look at generational attitudes and experiences among working women and the changing demographics of working mothers. It also necessitates a multi-faceted approach to expanding opportunities for women in business.

This is why the Interchange Group supports Catalyst, a nonprofit with over 50 years of experience conducting research and creating practical solutions that advance women in business. In lieu of holiday gifts and cards, the Interchange Group is donating funds to Catalyst's Changing Workplaces, Changing Lives Campaign, which will invest in:
  • Longitudinal research to track long-term trends for women in the workplace
  • An inclusive leadership initiative to equip women and men to lead 21st-century organizations
  • Global outreach to support gender parity in new markets
I encourage you to choose a cause to support this holiday season that is meaningful to you!

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Working Mother of the Future

The number of working women in their 40s and 50s with young children will increase dramatically over the next decade. This is a departure from past generations of working women, who had children in their 20s and early 30s and were empty nesters in their 40s. Specifically, it will mean that:
  • Women will be entering a timeframe of peak career and earning opportunities - defined by current workforce norms as between ages 45 and 55 - just as the demands on them as parents intensifies.
  • Corporate America will see a rising share of female employees in senior positions - roles traditionally associated with significant after hour social obligations - with young children.
  • Employers will experience a growing proportion of working mothers who will not be relying on the conventional economic, physical and psychological support structures associated with marriage.
Organizations that change their practices, benefits and cultures to accommodate the needs of working mothers (and fathers!) will be positioned to reap significant economic benefits in the coming decade. Recent announcements from Apple and Facebook that the companies will pay for egg freezing in support of women having high-powered careers and children is proof of this trend. 

For additional information on this important topic, download my new whitepaper, The Working Mother of the Future – How Demographics Will Force Change for Women at Work
To learn how to attract and retain top female talent in your organization, register for my December 4 webinar, What Women Want – Recruiting, Developing and Keeping 21st Century Female Leaders.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ditch Your 9 Box & Simplify Succession Planning for Success

If you want to engage in successful succession planning, ditch your 9 Box. 

For those unfamiliar with the tool, the 9 Box is a chart commonly used to assess talent within an organization and to make succession planning decisions. Placement of succession planning candidates in the chart is determined by ratings of performance and potential – both based upon a 3-point scale (low, moderate, high). Each of the 9 boxes derived from the ratings is labeled. For example, the high performance/high potential category is labeled "Consistent Star." 

The 9 Box is touted as a simple way to assess talent and plan for the succession of key roles. I disagree.  The tool is overly complex and results in the following consequences: 
  • Executives disengage
  • HR loses credibility
  • Managers game the system
  • HR is burdened with extra work
  • Participants lose sight of the purpose 
Succession planning it is not something to codify or get done in one sitting. It is a series of ongoing, strategic conversations about talent that take place at the executive level. These conversations require skilled facilitators and clear frameworks to guide dialogue about potential leaders for key roles. If you do not have someone internal who can objectively facilitate and who has credibility with the executive team, it is worth getting outside help. If you do not have clear parameters for evaluating potential talent against meaningful metrics, it is important to develop a straightforward method that will work for your unique industry, leaders, culture and business goals.

For more explanation, feel free to download my new whitepaper, Ditch Your 9 Box & Simplify Succession Planning for Success

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, September 29, 2014

Career Advice for the Stuck Generation

Generation Xers feel caught in between "greedy" Baby Boomers, who won't move over to give their generation a shot, and "entitled" Millennials, who won't put in a decent day's work. Dwarfed by media coverage of Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers have grown up to feel marginalized and ignored. This trend has continued into the workplace, as the needs of Gen Xers are consistently overshadowed by older and younger workers. 

As a generational expert and specialist on leadership development, I have the following career advice for the "Stuck Generation."

If you wish Boomers would get out of your way then help them to retool. It's not that they want to prevent younger generations from advancement. The problem is that many of them don't know how to move on (to retirement or to more fulfilling careers) and still support themselves, their aging parents and their children. Teach Boomers time management and delegation skills that will force them to work smarter instead of harder and longer, and you will help them reach the other side of the mountain more quickly. 

On the flipside, if you want Millennials to "toughen up" you will need to do a better job of managing their expectations. Invest your limited time in beefing up your company's interviewing, onboarding and career development initiatives. Millennials who know what is expected of them and what it takes to get to the next level will surprise you with their productivity and loyalty. 

And lastly, Gen Xers, I know you value your autonomy but even you could use a little help. Seek out the training you deserve to boost your communication and leadership skills. Otherwise, you'll play right into the stereotypes associated with your own generation. Or as the lead Gen X character in the film, Office Space, remarks, "It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, July 14, 2014

Millennials Don't Want To "Lean In"

Recent media coverage of Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, highlights the roles of women in the workplace and the bias and unfairness experienced by female professionals. Sandberg's powerful message is, however, distinctly shaded by her own generational lens and experience as a woman coming of age and entering the workforce in the wake of the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Her "mission to reboot" feminism and to reframe discussions on gender uniquely reflects her Generation X values of autonomy and work-life balance, and misses the mark with Millennial women, who do not see gender inequality in the workplace and are either confused or annoyed at the negativity they think older generations bring to the subject. 

In order to understand women's issues in the workplace and to retain and engage them as employees, companies must recognize that generational differences among working women exist and that each generation has an equally valid perspective on the topic. 

For a critical reference guide on the generational traits, experiences and attitudes of American working women, download my whitepaper, "Millennials Don't Want To Lean In -- Why Generational Differences Among Working Women Matter To Companies," or please feel free to contact me directly for more information and insight.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Amy will be presenting on New Hire Onboarding and Succession Planning for the 21st Century at the annual SHRM conference, June 22-23, 2014.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Top 5 Drivers of High Potential Engagement

The science of Human Resource Management was literally developed in the 1920s and 1930s during a time when the generational ethos was one of self-sufficiency, organization, and productivity. HR practices today remain tethered to these tenets, and it is striking to see how ill-suited most companies are for the Millennial generation’s values of creativity, community and equality.

Millennials will set the tone for employee engagement and the changing employer contract for the foreseeable future. The pure size and influence of this generational cohort will affect the perceptions and attitudes of Generation X and Baby Boomer employees as well. To determine the best high potential engagement strategies for companies, we must look to the Millennial generation for insight.

Using Millennials as the norm, here are the top five drivers of engagement for high potential employees.
  1. Transparency of Information - Millennials require companies to be transparent with information and to provide access to data, so they can perform effectively in their jobs and make decisions about their careers.
  2. Connection to the Corporate Strategy - Millennials need line of sight to the business strategy to perform in their jobs well, and to understand that their work has a purpose.
  3. Visibility - Millennials stay engaged when they get exposure to the senior executives who are driving the strategy and who have their own experiences to share.
  4. Opportunity - Millennials are driven by opportunities to advance in their careers and to develop professionally.
  5. Personalized Recognition - Millennials expect to participate in programs and receive rewards that are personalized and that recognize them for their time and efforts. 
Companies face unprecedented challenges brought on by demographic shifts, economic uncertainty, new technology, and constant, disruptive changes to their organizations. The Millennial leaders of the future will require new competencies and expertise to drive business performance. In return, these new leaders will expect their employers to engage them in drastically different ways than their predecessors.

Is your organization ready to make the change?

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Amy will be presenting on High Potential Engagement and Succession Planning for the 21st Century at the annual SHRM conference, June 22-23, 2014.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

5 Strategies for Retaining the Class of 2014

The average tenure of a Millennial is 1.8 years. That should worry employers, given the high costs of attrition and imminent talent shortages forecasted. 55 million job vacancies are projected in the U.S. over the next six years, 31 million of which will come from Baby Boomer retirements.

As the Class of 2014 enters the workforce, employers must adopt these five strategies to engage and retain Millennials. Their bottom lines will depend on it.

1. Revamp Onboarding Practices with Millennials in Mind – Most corporate orientation and onboarding programs miss the mark with Millennials, contributing to high attrition rates in the first year. Critically assess and retool onboarding practices with Millennials in mind. 
2. Train Supervisors to Effectively Manage & Coach Millennials – Managers play a critical role in retaining this generation. Invest in corporate training to teach supervisors how to provide appropriate feedback and career development to Millennials. 
3. Provide Millennials Opportunities to Solve "Real" Problems – Millennials want meaningful work from the start of their employment. Challenge managers to provide new hires with projects that can make an immediate difference to the company. 
4. Establish a Sense of Community – 28% of Millennials report quitting a job because they didn't feel connected to the organization.  Build (and participate in!) social activities that foster the sense of community Millennials expect in the workplace.
5. Offer Debt Reduction – The median total indebtedness of college graduates with student loans is $137,010. Offer corporate programs for debt reduction to win big loyalty points from Millennials.

By 2018, the Department of Labor reports that Millennials will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce. The size and influence of this generation means that Millennials will continue to set the tone for employee engagement and the evolving employer-employee contract. Companies that implement these strategies will have a significant competitive advantage in their industries and in the labor market.

For more information and resources on this topic, log onto

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Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Millennials Love You As Interns & Leave You As Employees

Millennials want opportunities for meaningful work from the start of their employment. They are ambitious in their professional development and look to the workplace to build their community and network.

Many companies are successful at providing Millennials with meaningful internships so that they convert to full-time hires. However, these same organizations often fail to retain their Millennials as employees, because the full-time employment experience differs too greatly from the intern experience.

This is why Millennials love you as interns and leave you as employees:
  • Interns are urged to meet new people and explore the company, while full-time hires are discouraged from actively networking
  • Interns receive messages such as "our doors are always open," while full-time hires hear "know your place"
  • Interns enjoy explicit career-pathing guidance, while full-time hires receive little or no career development
  • Interns work for managers invested in their experience, while full-time hires report to whomever has headcount, regardless of that manager's people skills
Intern programs are costly and must have a high return on investment to prove valuable. To succeed, and to create competitive advantages in their industries, companies must create a seamless transition and experience from intern to full-time hire. 

For strategies on effectively managing this transition, download my white paper, "The Rocky Transition from Intern to Full-Time Hire,"  or contact me directly.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Succession Planning Now for Successful Leaders Later

The Human Capital Institute (HCI) recently released their interview with me on my succession planning practices and expertise in building a strong talent pipeline for organizations.

This podcast, Succession Planning Now for Successful Leaders Later, addresses six critical succession planning issues facing companies:
  1. What are organizations doing differently today to prepare Millennials for leadership roles?
  2. What methods are effective in assessing and addressing talent for skills gaps?
  3. How can organizations simplify the succession planning process or begin with an easy approach?
  4. How often and with whom should you engage in the succession planning process?
  5. Should "high potential" employees be informed of their status?
  6. How can the scope of succession planning reach beyond the executive level?
Please feel free to listen to the free podcast and/or contact me directly with any questions or comments on the topic.

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, March 3, 2014

Succession Planning for Nonprofits

Demographic shifts are affecting society and its institutions in powerful ways. As America's population ages, we will see unprecedented transfers of authority and responsibility from the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations to Generation X and the Millennial Generation. The impact to nonprofit organizations and the boards that govern them will be especially profound. 

Consider this:
  • Almost 60% of nonprofits Executive Directors are over 50
  • Only 17% of nonprofits have documented succession plans for their Executive Directors
There are certain steps that nonprofit boards must take, as part of their governance duties, to establish executive succession plans. Without these plans, the financial and organizational sustainability of the nonprofit is at risk. 

In my consulting work over the past 12 years I have frequently been asked to guide nonprofits through the necessary steps to establish executive succession plans. I have simplified the process so that most Boards complete the plan within 1-2 months using my expertise as a guide. 

If you are interested in learning more about this approach, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at

For more information and resources on succession planning, onboarding and the multigenerational workforce, log onto

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Top 5 Human Capital Investments for 2014

The Department of Labor reports that the U.S. labor force declined in 2013 by almost 550,000 workers, 76% of which belong to the Baby Boomer generation. 

2014 will be the year when demographics tip the scales and the supply of high-performing talent will begin to steadily decrease. Companies who cannot attract and engage Millennial and Generation X workers will suffer losses. Talent acquisition and management will become CEO level initiatives and significant investments will be made to five key categories:
  • Attracting & onboarding top talent at all levels
  • Engaging & managing Millennial workers
  • Revolutionizing performance management & career development practices
  • Building 21st century leaders
  • Planning for the succession of executive & mission critical roles
In the coming years, organizations will rise and fall accordingly to how well they execute on these core initiatives. 2014 marks a sea change in human capital management. Are you prepared?

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy