One of the most common issues we have run across over the past few years involves the mass exodus of the Baby Boom Generation from the US workforce, and the struggles companies have in not only replacing retiring Boomers, but in planning to shift the needs of their company before they are impacted by this change.
Baby boomers, (75 Million strong in the US, according to recent Census data), are the generation of people born during the post–World War II baby boom – 1946 and 1964, and are now between 52 and 70 years old. In 2011, the first Boomers turned 65 and began retiring, and despite numerous studies that indicate many Boomers will continue to work after 65, they will continue to retire at an astounding rate of approximately 10,000 per day over the next 20 years.
Companies that choose to address this issue head on and develop a plan for transitioning their workforce upon the retirement of their key staff, will undoubtedly be a step ahead of their competitors.
What should companies do to prepare for this impending exodus of Baby Boomers?
- Have a transition plan in place - Ben Franklin famously said – “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” and this is true of your succession planning as well. Whether it be specifically identifying a successor for every job, identifying ways to shift work loads, allocating consulting resources or planning on temporary staffing to supplement existing staff, you must plan on ways to minimize work disruptions related to retiring employees.
- Identify candidates at risk - Depending on your company size it may or may not be easy to determine the employees most likely to retire soon. A simple check of your employee census can indicate the number of staff at or near retirement age. Once those individuals are identified make a deeper dive into which ones you might think are at risk of retiring and put steps in place to be prepared if and when they do.
- Be creative in retaining excellent employees - Many Boomers have indicated their willingness to continue working based upon their financial situation or simply their desires. Engage employees in meaningful conversations that indicate a willingness on your part to continue their employment in a creative way (part-time work, consulting arrangements) so that the impact of a complete brain drain is minimized and your time to plan for a suitable replacement is maximized.
- Embrace youth - Progressive and successful companies are willing to hire talent wherever and whenever they find it, and that includes younger (sometimes much younger) and out of the box talent. Recent Census data indicates that Millennials (America’s youth born between 1982 and 2000) now outnumber Baby Boomers (83.1 vs. 75 million) and represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population. Many Millennials are moving into executive positions and their strong desire to succeed and willingness to change can be great benefits to companies that were traditionally hesitant to do so.
- Provide Training for current employees – Before all your brain power leaves your organization, have them train your existing employees so they can be prepared when the time comes for them to step up. Whether it be formal training or informal through a shadowing program, companies should do all they can to encourage a knowledge transfer between different generations of employees.
- Identify successors already on staff – You know who your all-star up and coming employees are. Make a point to engage them in succession discussions, and invest the time, training, and resources necessary for them to fulfill their potential. Often these candidates may be less strategic and visionary than the mature leader they are replacing but given time and the right mentoring, they can be just as, if not more successful and impactful to your company.
Great companies will plan and be creative in replacing their retiring Boomers. By being prepared, and getting out in front of the issue, you can ensure that the impact of the Baby Boomer exodus does not negatively impact your company.
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