There’s an epidemic on the horizon.
It’s coming as certainly as tomorrow is.
It will be the demise of many businesses that currently flourish.
Leaders from coast to coast know it’s coming and how devastating it will be.
They refuse to acknowledge the danger. They refuse to prepare for its assault.
They will pay the price. They will inevitably become victims.
If all of the above is known by so many, why are so many doing so little to prepare for what we know will occur? Whew! Come up with an answer for that one, and your financial future is indeed secure!
Here’s the bottom line: 82 million Americans, known fondly as “Baby Boomers,” were born between 1946 and 1964. One-fifth of our American workforce will be reaching retirement age by 2020, meaning that 25 million people are currently poised to leave the workforce.
The Baby Boomers have always been on the cutting edge of cultural trends, and they all seem to revolve around the letter “R” … recreation, radicalism, racism, rock ‘n’ roll, rebellion, road rage, religion, reality, relaxation, Rogaine, and real estate. There are more, but the Big R has yet to rear its ugly head … retirement! When it does, and it won’t be long now, it’s going to have a tremendous impact on corporate America!
There will be a mass exodus that will catch most leaders flat footed. They will claim ignorance stating that they were caught unaware—had no clue it was coming. There will be a extraordinary shortage of workers to fill jobs. In addition, and maybe most frightening, there will be a “brain drain” that corporate America will feel for decades.
In our travels from coast to coast, we have noticed the very obvious fact that those involved with this phenomenon, which is just about everyone in today’s business environment, are rapidly falling into one of two very distinct categories:
- Those who are unprepared and destined, as a result, to fail to varying degrees. Some in this category will lose market share, be forced to downsize, reduce production, close facilities, and, in many instances, simply vanish. It’s that simple.
- Those who have analyzed the demographic evidence, heard the message, believed it, and are proactively preparing for the inevitable reality that we know will come sooner than later.
Let’s focus on the potential survivors and review some of the proactive strategies they’ve chosen in preparation for the oncoming erosion of talent and probable skills drain. In no particular order:
- Entice older workers to stay on the job past retirement age by embracing partial retirement, telecommuting, and job sharing arrangement. Hang on to these valuable assets until you get enough people coming in behind them that are not only trained but proficient.
- Utilize your “veterans” as mentors in one-on-one training situations or as team leaders to groups of younger workers. Allow them to share their decades of education, experience, failures and successes, networking benefits, and on-the-job enlightenment. Let them share their personal insights on customers, vendors, culture, products, services, policies, procedures, strategies, and everything it took them decades to accumulate. Reducing the learning curve could be invaluable.
- Start training younger employees more thoroughly than ever before. Start sharing more information at every level of the organization. The more an employee knows about the business, culture, history, strategy, products, services, future goals, etc., the more that person feels like a true team member who has a stake in the future success of the organization.
- Set realistic expectations for everyone, hold every member of the organization accountable, and provide consequences (both positive and negative) that will encourage success and growth.
- Determine what mechanisms and programs must be put in place now to capture key competencies and critical work knowledge of employees who will be retiring. Realize the fact that you’re facing a skills crisis versus a simple loss of bodies.
- Fill the pipeline behind retiring experts with workers who have the education and skills to master increasingly complex manufacturing technologies and processes.
- Keep an open mind and investigate the possibility of outsourcing. While you may be totally against the entire concept today, you may discover it to be your salvation tomorrow. Do some research, consider alternatives, weigh the pros and cons, and do it today by choice rather than tomorrow by necessity.
- Build your Bench. Many of our clients have created a program and/or strategy to start preparing existing employees, who have been identified with leadership potential, for crucial roles in future endeavors. This strategy has numerous benefits to everyone involved. If you’d like more information on this approach, please feel free to contact us through our website.
- Start researching options TODAY. There are numerous resources available to anyone willing to begin preparation for what will be one of the greatest challenges any business will face in the future.
There are many who compare this threat to Y2K and feel there’s nothing to worry about. However, unlike Y2K, which vanished from the national consciousness at the stroke of midnight, Baby Boomer Brain Drain has already begun in many industries and will continue to impact organizations for decades to come. Has anyone considered the fact that Y2K was not a major disaster because we identified possible tragedies in advance, created strategies to prepare for the possible pitfalls, and took proactive ACTION to protect our assets?
This challenge is not limited to a certain industry. It will impact any business that depends on employees to succeed. Those who aren’t on top of this critical issue are taking a tremendous risk. Employers who wait too long may very well run out of time and options. Can you risk it? If not, take action now!