This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 15, 2008 - your reputation is a recruitment strategy

The numbers tell the story. Some 80 million Baby Boomers were born; 40 million Gen-Xers.

A 2004 report from Colorado's Library Research Service made several predictions:

* More than 20 percent of responding Colorado librarians expect to retire within the next five years. Of all responding school librarians, about half indicate plans to retire within five years—more than three times the proportion for public librarians and almost five times the proportion for academic librarians.

* Many librarians who responded to this survey are not waiting until age 65 to retire. Almost 30 percent of those who expect to retire within the next five years are ages 45 to 54.

* Retiring librarians will take with them substantial administrative skills. Of these prospective retirees, one out of five expects their job to be combined with another or eliminated. Almost one out of five expects to be succeeded by someone with less education.

Of course, these kinds of findings are not unique to the library world. Many organizations are looking around and noting that there's more gray hair in the room than there used to be. Not long after that, leaders realize that there are likely to be FEWER people with gray hair in the not too distant future.

This may be seen as more of a problem by old-timers than young professionals. It is the conceit of the old to imagine that they've learned something. It is the conceit of the young to imagine that they can do twice as much as their seniors. There's some merit to both.

But what can libraries, or any other organization, do about this demographic shift?

* recruit new talent. It's clear that there may be something of a bidding war for the best and brightest. There are at least two pools of candidates: young people just starting out, and older folks unhappy with their current jobs. The strategies for those target audiences are a little different. But it's clear that an investment in tuition assistance is smart in either case.

* retain the best. It's a truism in retail that it's easier to hold on to a customer you've got than to find a new one. Likewise, once organizations latch onto promising employees, it makes sense to define some growth paths for them -- to move them into leadership positions sooner rather than later.

One way to do this is through the creation or adoption of leadership development programs. Here at Douglas County Libraries, thanks to the good work of many bright staff members (Missy Shock, Art Glover, Pam Nissler, and others), we have developed a "Leadership Journey" project. It's focused on working with a series of employee cohorts to help them grow as individuals, and as leaders. The "curriculum" identifies skills we know matter: personal productivity, an awareness of various social styles, emotional intelligence, thriving on change, creative problem solving, and more.

Along with that is an important commitment: to give our people the opportunity to use those skills. We'll need them.

Another factor in holding onto good people is understanding what drives them. Librarians report some consistent things about why they love their jobs, with just two things topping the list: service to others and intellectual challenge. Another big factor is something the studies call collegiality: we genuinely like working with each other.

One of our Board members, David Starck, told me not long ago that in any customer survey, there's really only one question that matters: would you recommend our services to your friends? That gets at another quality that might be the strongest recruitment and retention policy around: your reputation as an institution.

That reputation today will have a lot to do with your reputation tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment