The population bulge known as the Baby Boom has officially entered retirement age, and that may be good news for up-and-coming managers in the food industry.
As those older workers leave the workforce in increasing numbers, the theory goes, younger talent will step up to replace them — indicating that it may be more important than ever to begin recruiting and training the leaders of the future.
Kings Super Markets, based in Parsippany, N.J., for example, this year rolled out an improved training program to develop store-level management, with the idea in mind that those managers can be groomed to rise to the next level at corporate headquarters.
“We really reenergized the whole training program, and we've had a significant number of promotions at store level,” Bruce Weitz, chief executive officer of the 26-store chain, told SN. “We want to have a good mix of people who we have developed internally and people who we bring in from the outside.”
The aging of the Boomer population might play in some companies' favor, he said, as many retirees are expected to keep one foot in the workforce as part-time employees, allowing companies to leverage their experience and expertise.
“Baby Boomers retiring might be good for us,” Weitz said.
Jose Tamez, managing partner at Austin Michael Executive Search, Denver, said supermarket companies have recently been doing a better job of recruiting good talent, although they still need to work on retention.
“I do think that over the last three, four or five years, that the industry has been doing a better job of attracting good young talent,” he said. “The talent level in the industry today is much higher than it was five or 10 years ago.”
Many companies in the industry are placing increasing emphasis on recruiting to fill anticipated needs, according to Bill Reffett in the Seattle office of executive search firm Preston-Reffett.
“Some of our clients are getting well ahead of this issue by bringing in new talent and developing a strong reservoir of executives that will allow their companies to eventually become net exporters of talent in the future,” he said. “We are assisting them as they require all new hires to be promotable two levels up.”
Gary Preston, of the Philadelphia office of Preston-Reffett, said some companies in the industry are asking to be provided with a “pool of talent” for positions that they do not currently have any openings for. “They view the investment as ‘talent banking,’ much in the same way that they land bank real estate for future development.”
Many companies are also relying on their retiring veterans to work with them on a consulting basis to help bring the new talent up to speed as quickly as possible, said Tom Smith, president of Retail-iQ, a Preston-Reffett company. “All companies should have metrics in place to hold their key executives accountable for the mentoring and development of the next generation of leaders,” he said.