In three short years, 25 percent of the workforce will be over the age of 55. Many seniors will continue working, but not necessarily in the same roles they held before. Instead, they will move into less demanding “retirement careers” that keep them busy and allow them to earn extra income.

In 2007, the Baby Boomers entered the retirement phase. This shift in the working paradigm presents many challenges for organizations needing to fill the management void. The generation after the baby boomers, typically referred to as Gen X or Baby Busters, is not large enough to fill the void on its own. Therefore, companies need to identify and develop younger workers at a more accelerated pace than ever before.

Organizations are beginning to strategize on how to fill this void. One strategy is to cultivate talent and ensuring a successful transition into workforce dynamics. It is common for organizations to become over consumed with the work demands. Therefore, there is a lack of dedicated resources toward developing a leadership pipeline that will sustain their organizations in the future. If your company is in this situation, it is essential to take steps now to effectively prepare for the transition. Consider the following tips when creating a plan for future leadership development.

Define Your Needs: Organizations must have structure around the process of development. First consider defining the elements, goals, and steps that will shape the success of a leadership development initiative. Once you have completed the identification phase, you will need clarity to proceed with the next steps in building your leadership pipeline so that you proactively engage high potentials in the development process. Consider the following:

  • Elements—what are the leadership characteristics your organization values to meet long-term objectives?
  • Goals—what are the outcomes that will define success? It’s also important to define the tools that will be used to measure success.
  • Steps—what process will be used to develop the leadership pipeline? The process should include both macro steps (Identification, Development, and Placement) and micro steps, which are the stages or details of execution within each of the macro stages.

Identify Potential Early: Determining bench strength within your current employee ranks is an obvious place to start. The organizations that will win the race for talent will be the ones that apply a holistic approach to building their pipelines. This approach includes interviewing candidates and screening them for potential. You do not need to completely overhaul your existing structured interviewing process, however; simply add in a few elements that focus on leadership skills.

Balance and Endurance: Perhaps the greatest challenge facing organizations and leaders is finding an effective balance between the demands of your current work load and dedicating time and resources to future development. Begin by incorporating specific tasks intended to give employees experience or exposure to new challenges. Training classes, workshops, and other developmental tools will need to be included at some point as well. Spread out these exercises to allow employees to incorporate their learning into work practices. Participation in the leadership pipeline is a process that should be integrated over 24 to 36 months. It is not a sprint, but rather an endurance race, wherein the participants maintain a purposeful pace that results in successful development over time.

The demands for acquiring and developing leadership has become an integral part of organizational success. The future success of any organization in operation today is dependent on developing a solid process around feeding its Leadership Pipeline. It’s a process that begins with Talent Acquisition and one that needs to be structured with specific objectives. If your organization hasn’t begun preparations for meeting the talent challenges of the near future, it is not too late. However, it won’t be long before the drain of talent in the workforce will leave some organizations in a vulnerable position. Being proactive today will alleviate the need to be reactive tomorrow.