A lot has been written about the changing workforce. Millennials, Generations X and Y are either in the existing workforce or coming into the workforce and baby boomers are getting ready to leave. When those baby boomers leave, there will be some huge gaps in the workplace. The skills and knowledge baby boomers have can be a critical loss to many workplaces. In fact, in one article out of Baton Rouge, a recruiter told how some employers are almost terrified when an employee retires because they don’t know what to do with the loss of the person retiring.
This is a crisis that will impact many workplaces. In 2010, the Pew Research Center estimated 20% of the U. S. population in 2030 will be 65 or older. That’s less than 20 years away now and some workers may be leaving the workforce before that according to the Society of Human Resource Management(SHRM). SHRM quoted the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and found 44 million people will be age 55 and older by 2022, almost 5 years away.
In a report done by the U. S. Department of Labor, it said baby boomers are important to employers because they are usually more engaged and enjoy the work they do. These workers are much more productive and are more skillful at building customer relationships. In addition, because they enjoy their work, there is a tendency not to take many sick days and they are less likely to use their health insurance benefits. Experts suggested employers look at ways to retain these workers.
The report also said the loss of knowledge and skill is troubling for workplaces because the trend with younger workers is not to work at one workplace for more than two years. With that kind of turnover and the potential for large numbers of retirements, it could cause workplace profits to suffer especially as turnover costs increase.
What’s troubling is that many employers are not concerned but SHRM believes it is a crisis employers should be addressing. So what could workplaces do to avoid the loss of skill and knowledge?
One recommendation we at CALMC would encourage is to put a committee or team together to look at this problem. It can also be an excellent problem for labor-management committees to address. Succession planning is definitely in the interest of both unions and management. A committee or team can help bridge not only labor and management but also work groups from different areas and bridge age groups. Composition of all age groups could help identify workplace practices beneficial to everybody and help people of different ages work together and learn from each other.
Workplaces need to do a demographic assessment and skills forecast. This will provide better information of what changes will take place. One manufacturing organization conducted an assessment and the results identified a large portion of the workforce was eligible for retirement much at the same time. Management was quite concerned about the disadvantage this could create in their ability to produce their product. They developed some training plans to implement to avoid a potential loss of skill. First, the organization reached out to the local community college for training assistance for both labor and management. They also offered college tuition benefits for additional training that could provide even more assistance to salaried workers. They also looked at their hiring practices to make sure they were hiring the best qualified hourly and salaried workforce.
Some employers are not concerned because they provide benefits to entice potential retirees to stay. One employer said some workers who are eligible to retire prefer to work part-time so they are offering those employees benefits or phased-in retirements which encourages them to stay longer and that allows the employer opportunity to have skilled workers as they hire and train replacements. Job sharing can provide an excellent benefit for those wanting part-time work.
While many of these ideas sound familiar, they are popular ideas across all age groups. Other ideas employers can provide are flexible work environments such as work-at-home situations. Another could be older workers mentoring younger workers or providing additional training, if needed, to help different age groups work together. Other training could also be done to help all employees learn new skills either for work or offer health and wellness programs that offer all age groups a healthy life-style. Another idea is to recognize the dilemma for older workers and provide classes that can help them learn more about retirement.
Congress is also trying to help older workers. Last week we posted an article on our Facebook page about Congress addressing the need to maintain social security time for those workers who need to leave the workforce to be caregivers. It is a conflicting issue for older workers as they are concerned about those they must take care but also their own needs of a reduction in social security benefits they could have when they retire.
There are plenty of ideas that can be implemented to avoid the crisis and also make the workplace better. It just takes the initiative and commitment to do it.