The conventional wisdom has held that 10,000 baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are expected to retire, on average, each day in the United States through 2030. This loss of expertise and knowledge was already having an adverse impact on many organizations. Now, the impact of COVID-19 has accelerated that trend. According to a Pew Research Center report, the pace of retirements amongst baby boomers in 2020 (3.2%) more than doubled the 2019 rate (1.5%).
On the one hand, this is excellent news for those getting ready to enter the next chapter of their lives and an opportunity for younger workers to step into new roles. On the other, how prepared is your organization for a more rapid brain drain?
Based on pre-pandemic research conducted by the authors of Critical Knowledge Transfer, one company reported that in the next anticipated wave of nearly 700 retirements, they would experience a loss of 27,000 years of experience. If that’s not enough to have you sit up and take notice, I’m not sure what will, especially as the trend ticks upward. That said, not every vacated position is created equal. Some will certainly be easier to fill than others. Perhaps the appropriate level of expertise and skill is readily available on the job market or you have done the work to ensure that someone within your organization is ready to take on the role. Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.
Taking a Proactive Stance – 5 Key Tips
- Knowing the average age of your employee population is not enough. That still keeps the potential problem at hand difficult to define. Take a closer look at the specific roles held by long-term employees and seasoned managers who are within a few years of retirement age. Which positions require critical skills and experience that are not easy to find on the open market? Long term employees across and at all levels of the organization often hold critical, hands-on experience of how to get things done through their comprehensive knowledge of processes, company historical information, clients and customers. Without a proactive approach, your organization runs the risk of realizing, too late, that you have a critical skill shortage that is adversely impacting your business performance.
- Consider implementing a mentoring program that effectively engages both older and younger workers in accelerating development and bridging the knowledge gap. Providing training for both mentors and mentees can help to ensure that a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship is created and both parties find the experience a valuable one.
- Utilize knowledge capture methods to gather critical expertise and make it available across a wide range of people. There are many ways to store and manage institutional knowledge including online forums, podcasts, webinars, and videos, to name a few.
- Pay attention to employee engagement. Younger members of the workforce have an average job stay of roughly four years. Ensure the right managers are in place who truly care about their employees’ success. Robin Reilly, a Senior Consultant at Gallup has written that such managers “seek to understand each person’s strengths and provide employees with every opportunity to use their strengths in their role. Great managers empower their employees, recognize and value their contributions, and actively seek their ideas and opinions.” Increasing employee engagement will assist in keeping younger workers from jumping ship.
- Provide professional and leadership skill development to your employees to develop your associates and prepare those great managers. The on-going opportunity to build on strengths and expand one’s comfort zone through training and development programs advances the growth of your internal talent pool and demonstrates your commitment to their success.
It is a critical time to proactively address the seismic shift that is accelerating in terms of talent shortages in the workplace. These are just a few of the tips that can help you to mitigate your risk. Don’t wait another day to identify where your organization is most vulnerable and take the steps now to ensure a smoother transition.