As a card-carrying member of “The Silver Tsunami,” I am quite aware of our aging workforce. Just looking around my own organization, not only are there a lot of fellow Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), we also employ a healthy share of Traditionalists (born between 1922-1943).
According to Arlene Hirsch in “4 Ways for HR to Overcome Aging Workforce Issues” (www.shrm.org), “Ten thousand Baby Boomers turn 65 every day—a trend that began in 2011 and will continue until 2030. Despite their reputation for being workaholics, their average retirement age is 61 to 65, which means that the workplace needs to prepare for a veritable tidal wave of turnover (ergo, the Silver Tsunami).”
And to paraphrase what Bette Davis so poignantly once said… we’d better fasten our seat belts, because the bumpy night is now upon us, as millions of jobs will become available due to the Boomers retiring. According to a Georgetown University report, the number of younger workers with education and skills to replace Boomers isn’t large enough or growing fast enough to make up for these departures.
Strategies to HELP!
One strategy is to offer flexible and part-time opportunities to employees who may otherwise have retired, continuing the transfer of knowledge to other workers. Then, when someone wishes to fully retire, we’re better positioned to absorb the loss of that knowledge and those skills. Your organization’s culture should truly embrace the two most vulnerable generations— Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. Unfortunately, this is not broadly practiced in most of today’s workplaces and just the opposite typically occurs.
Our CEO at Johnson Health Center has a passion for developing emerging leaders in our organization, which also helps fortify us against these inevitable departures of older workers. He actively reaches out and invites talented employees to meet with him as he helps to begin to hone their leadership skills and emotional intelligence. He seeks out and provides opportunities both inside and outside the organization for these folks to learn and grow. Admittedly, this might be a bit easier to accomplish in our small organization and a tad more challenging to pull off in a huge private sector employer.
Another strategy to consider is for a Baby Boomer to reach out and mentor someone (or two) in your organization. You don’t need to wait for a formal mentoring program to be created. In fact, research has shown formal mentoring programs to be ineffective; instead, the concept of having or being a mentor or buddy itself, is quite beneficial. “Reverse mentoring” where, for example, a Millennial mentors a Baby Boomer and instructs on new technology, software, etc. is a “two-fer,” i.e., both are learning from each other.
Challenge your Baby Boomers to be pro-active in sharing their knowledge and skills with younger workers. Consider making it one of their SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals for the year. Look to infuse these “exchanges” in your project teams, research, presentations, reports, etc. And finally, remember to recognize and reward your mentors, buddies, and coaches for their efforts.
Take Stock of Your Talent Portfolio
Take stock of your Baby Boomer talent. Some you will want to retain, others, not so much. For the ones you want to keep a bit longer, make it worth their while. If their current workload is too great, reduce it or restructure the job so it’s more bearable. Utilize part-time, compressed, and alternative work schedules—pilot and experiment. Consider hiring these folks seasonally or as on-call floaters—these folks’ pictures are in the dictionary next to the words, “on time,” “never takes a sick day,” “reliable” (you get my drift). Take a look at how many hours one needs to work to become benefits-eligible. Now is the time to take stock of your organization’s talent and see if there may be opportunities to re-balance your organization’s talent portfolio.