The Aging Workforce and What it Means for HR

Written by Becky Mitchell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Principal | Lighthouse Resource Group

The Aging Workforce and What it Means for HR

You have probably been hearing it often: the population is getting older and living longer. This shift in population age is posing issues in healthcare, but also the workforce.

Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2019 (the latest date for which population estimates are available). As the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, how will organizations transition when losing so many workers with key talents, experiences and skills?

SHRM reports that only 3 percent of organizations have a plan in place to having a formal strategy to recruit older workers and only 4 percent have a plan to retain older workers.

As more than 75 million Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the loss of knowledge and talent is a large problem for every organization that employs older, veteran workers. There are many highly-educated Millennials and Gen Xers that can replace these Baby Boomer workers, but the transfer of knowledge and experience poses an issue for most organizations.

Most Baby Boomer workers hold highly skilled positions that, left vacant, will be difficult to fill with new talent. Most HR professionals agree that there just are not enough highly- skilled Millennials and Gen Xers to recoup the magnitude of loss that the Baby Boomers will bring. For this reason, employers should consider strategies to hold onto their older more experienced workers as long as possible.

In SHRM's latest report on this issue, Preparing for an Aging Workforce, the SHRM Foundation remarks that HR has an important responsibility in combating these issues: “Convincing workers to delay retirement and stay in the workforce will be an important HR responsibility in the years ahead but preparing for these changes could be challenging if managers and organizational leaders do not lend their support in these efforts.”

The report presents several considerations to organizations serious about retaining Baby Boomer workers as long as possible, including:

  • Tracking the retirement eligibility of employees
  • Offering flexibility to older workers, such as work location and schedule
  • Offering different benefits or wellness programs to older workers
  • Hiring retirement age workers as consultants or temporary workers

Workforce planning will be a major challenge for all HR departments in the coming years as more Baby Boomers seek to retire. Educating leaders and managers on the benefits of older workers is the most cited challenge by those surveyed HR professionals.

Does your organization have a plan for transitioning Baby Boomers out of your workforce?

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