So much has been written about the impact of baby boomers exiting the labor force, it seems incomprehensible that employers would not be ready and have strategies in place to respond to this major change.
Guess again. It appears that the departure of boomers is taking employers by surprise. All the sudden, companies are realizing the challenge of replacing the knowledge and skills that boomers will be taking with them when they head for the exits.
Why am I not surprised by their surprise? When your generation has been the 800 pound gorilla/punching bag (demographically speaking) for so long, nothing surprises when it comes to the wild and crazy assumptions that society has thrown at us. We’re spoiled and self-centered. We caused global warming. We’re responsible for every economic bubble burst. We’ve run up the deficit. We’re sabotaging our children’s future. We’re sociopaths. And the topper – we’re going to drain the social security fund dry.
Feels like a communal “don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out” kind of moment we’re in right now. However, employers readily admit that in the next five years they will face a significant challenge due to boomer retirements. Now they are starting to worry more about the skills loss than the fact that boomers might be blocking the advancement of younger workers. Some employers are offering phased-in retirement options in order to avoid the inevitable “brain drain.” According to a study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 70% of the employers thought their workplace was aging-friendly but only half the workers thought that was accurate.
It’s hard to quantify what employers are losing when boomers begin leaving the workplace in large numbers because you can’t easily measure the value of their institutional knowledge and history. Add to that the fact that organizations don’t know when their older workers will want to retire. It used to be age 65 but now it’s trending closer to age 70.
Better late than never, the hope now is that organizations come up with a strategy to hold on to older workers or at least offer flexible work schedules that might keep some boomers on the job and passing along what they know.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.