NAWCJ

June 2021 President’s Letter



by Hon. Deneise Turner Lott

The Circle Game

 

Get ready.  Even before the pandemic, Baby Boomer retirements were predicted to empty out more than 40% of the workforce over the next decade.  The pandemic has accelerated that rate.  The oldest Boomers turned age 65 and began retiring in 2011.  A recent Pew Research Center analysis shows that the overall number of Boomers retiring since 2011 has grown by about 2 million per year.  However, while 1.5 million more Boomers retired in the third quarter of 2019 than in the same quarter of 2018, a whopping 3.2 million more Boomers retired in the third quarter of 2020 than in 2019.

To this figure, add the increasing number of women and people of color who are shucking hierarchical careers to launch their own businesses in search of greater mobility and fulfillment.  The upshot is that, within the next decade, the leadership ranks of our agencies and organizations will look and function very differently than they do today.

What does that mean for us as judges?  While agency heads are tasked directly with personnel issues, everyone in an organization who cares about its mission should develop and engage its most important resource, its employees.  We can all help locate and soften the landing for new hires.  But how can we otherwise attract and retain younger talent?  What knowledge and skills gaps will the demographic shake-up produce? And will the competition for replacements create a “war for talent?” There are too few Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) to take up the slack for Boomers (born 1946-1964).  Although the next age cadre, Millennials (born 1981-1996), is the largest generational U.S. workforce in history, Millennials lack Boomers’ experience, soft skills, and institutional knowledge.  The same is true of Millennials’ younger cohort, Gen Zers (born after 1997), the oldest of whom will turn 24 this year.

To transition from older to younger worker, we will need a broader focus and a more creative paradigm  – especially in the post-pandemic context of switching from traditional workplaces to hybrid models. Some strategies for a successful succession plan, culled from recent articles on this subject, include the following:

  1. Develop succession plans for leadership roles and all critical positions.
  2. Create challenging job experiences to attract and sustain younger workers.  Think innovative and agile, not elaborate or structured, when devising development programs.
  3. Identify opportunities where new employees can expand their skills and interact with senior employees and leaders.  Millennials prefer transparent, collaborative organizations.  These digital natives like access to information, so open organizations and open-door hierarchies are more likely to recruit and retain them.  
  4. Reap Baby Boomers’ knowledge before they retire.  To transfer skills and experience, facilitate mentorships between older and younger employees.  Institute job sharing, part-time work, and flex scheduling for Baby Boomers so they can continue to work while preparing protégés to take the reins.
  5. Create a work environment that allows for individuality, inclusion, and flexibility to balance work and life demands.  Workplace flexibility will also be key to retaining Gen Xers because they are at a stage of life that includes children and aging parents.  Without workplace flexibility  –  including telecommuting, part-time hours, compressed work weeks, project-based contracts, flex schedules, parental leave, vacation, job sharing, shift trading, and sabbaticals  –  they cannot maintain the work/life balance they need to remain in the workforce.
  6. Align your agency/firm’s purpose, vision, and mission to something bigger in society.  Millennials value corporate and social responsibility initiatives.  They want to see how their work contributes to the bigger picture, serves the public good.
  7. Invest in education and training programs for younger/prospective employees.  Internships and even shadow days for local high school students can help arm up-and-comers with the skills they will need to join your agency or organization.
  8. Prepare production/procedures manuals as guides for successors. 

These tools and strategies cannot prevent the years from spinning by.  But they can help your agency or business leverage the unique talents of each generation and, thereby, better serve both your stakeholders and the larger community.

*****

Speaking of the carousel of time, effective June 1, Judge Knowrasa Patrick of Washington leaves our ranks as a member of the judiciary and as a valued Board member of NAWCJ to accept a position as the Program Manager of the Self-Insurance Program of her state’s Department of Labor and Industries. We will sorely miss her wit and wisdom, as well as her passion for her craft.  Whether educating new judges during “Boot Camp” or debating the role of the judge in pro se proceedings during a session of the Judiciary College, Judge Patrick could be counted on to lead the pack.  Congratulations, Judge Patrick!  We appreciate your service and wish you continued success.

I, personally and on behalf of the Board, also want to thank two important groups.  First, our Nominating Committee  –  Judge Bruce Moore of Kansas, Judge Jennifer Hopens of Texas, and Judge Jim Szablewicz of Virginia  –  for their hard work in nominating the 2021 slate of Officers and Directors.  The full slate and details on the August virtual election of Officers and Directors can be found in this month’s Lex. A debt of gratitude is also owed to Board members who have elected to promote NAWCJ by making room for a new crop of Directors.  Their leadership and willingness to serve as officers and as committee chairs, especially while balancing other duties and dockets during the past year and a half, are an example for us all.  Kudos and best wishes to Judge Frank McKay of Georgia and again to Judge Szablewicz and Judge Moore.  I look forward to seeing you all at the College in Orlando, December 13-15, 2021!

Until next month, take some time to celebrate the season.  After a very long winter, we deserve some sunshine and socialization!

Deneise