You don’t need to be convinced about the value of measuring and benchmarking. But today I want to call your attention to an area that:

1. rarely gets benchmarked and 2. is vital to your company’s sustained success. Although not a financial benchmark, it’s impacing both your top line (sales) as well as your bottom line (profit).

Before I reveal this benchmark, please allow me to give you some background. At a recent industry meeting, I was sitting at a round banquet table having lunch with a few state petro execs and a handful of marketers. As we began catching up, they asked me my opinion on industry challenges. Of course, supply, pricing, government regulations – those are always issues. But one that immediately came to my mind was people. I get calls and emails weekly about staffing issues. Finding and keeping productive employees is one of the industry’s greatest challenges. But as we talked about this at our table, I realized that several of the marketers had the opposite challenge in their home offices – a very aging workforce!

Is that you? Consider your home office right now. How many of your staff have been with you what seems like forever? In fact, how many were hired by your father? Has your office manager been with you for 25 or 30 years? How about your dispatcher? One CEO marketer at the table revealed most of his office workers were older than he is and one of his biggest challenges is his VP who talks about how open to change his is and then won’t budge off his tried and true procedures! I could sympathize since when I’ve been out at marketer sites helping them forge strategic plans, I’ve experienced resistance to change from certain personnel. I know it’s not politically correct, but yes, they had lots of tenure!

Now don’t misunderstand me. I ’m not advocating firing older workers or violating any EEOC guidelines. In fact, two out of three of my last hires at my own company were over 50 and they are invaluable to me. What I personally love about my newest 50+ workers is they show up every day, bring wisdom and have fabulous experience they brought to their positions which drastically cut training time. What I am advocating today is being cognizant of an overall stagnant, change-averse, keeping-the-chair-warm-until-retirement bunch of workers!

I’m also going to suggest that just like in most other areas of your business, diversity mitigates risk. If you have lots of 55+ workers, even if all are stellar performers, what will happen 10 years from now to your company? The likelihood is that most of them will want to be out of their jobs within 10 years. Where could that mass retirement leave you?

Interestingly enough, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the FAA is having the same problems! Air traffic controllers, vital to the safety of those of us who fly, are retiring in mass. Per the NATCA, just this past year 856 controllers retired. And the FAA has missed accurately forecasting the number of retirements by 33% (and has for the last four years.) Don’t run the chance of getting your company into a similar pickle. Begin using age tier benchmarks now. Benchmarks can be as simple as segregating into 10 year groups (for example, under 25, 25-34, 35-44, etc.) and then determining percentages by group.

Like any other good business planning, if you take inventory, and realize you do have a very aging home office workforce, you must take action. You need to diversify. How? By adding 20’s, and 30’s and 40’s new hires with fresh ideas, and perhaps more open attitudes towards technology-driven efficiencies. Does that mean you don’t hire a super-qualified 50+ candidate. Absolutely not. Age discrimination in hiring is completely illegal. But you can increase the chances of adding younger candidates by implementing strategic candidate recruitment methods. Most marketers who have successfully age-diversfied their business either forged a close relationship with their nearest college placement office, or got professional help to modify their recruiting (job announcement wording, placement of announcements, etc.)

You too can have success recruiting talented young people by providing a job description that goes beyond the typical skill sets needed. Remember that the best and the brightest grads and middle-agers have lots of opportunities. Today’s younger person is looking for more than a paycheck and your placement request must reflect this. Offer a chance to make a difference and lead change. We are so blessed in our industry that most positions we recruit are truly challenging plus they come with the huge benefit of seeing results from direct personal action. Our employee’s one voice can make an noticeable impact. They won’t just be a five digit employee number who has to work years before their ideas come to fruition.

Will they drive your older staff crazy? Possibly! But it may be in a good way! Have you ever brought home a puppy to your very aging dog? Day one, that puppy is crawling all over your old dog, begging him to play. The old dog growls. The puppy keeps it up. And just because the little bugger is insistent, the old dog finally gives in. By day two, you notice your old dog is acting 5 years younger. Will he still get grouchy and snarl once in awhile at the new brat? Probably. But the pup will take it in stride. Your older worker may take more than a day to play, but most will come around.

Will they get mad and leave. Maybe. And the ones that do probably need to go. So many marketers tell me when the employee they most feared leaving, and tip-toed around for years, finally does go, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I’ve personally witnessed this with marketer staff in my Hidden Profits Coaching Club (www.askmeridian.com). In the twelve-session program, I’ve seen seasoned marketer employees unwilling to change. While most companies are speeding ahead with five and six figure gains in profit and cash in a very short period of time, there are one or two CFOs or managers who are just too closed-minded or overwhelmed with work to even consider a new idea. Then, the owner reassigns primary responsibility to a young pup, and all of a sudden things begin to happen!

So, I highly encourage you to benchmark employee age in a format that makes sense for you and your organization. I can assure you that workforce age diversity will raise your sales and your profits.

PetroAnswers The Most Overlooked Vital Benchmark