Are you ready to deal with Baby Boomers’ potentially unexpected effect on your staffing plan?
Recent research from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that roughly 65 percent of baby boomers — Americans born between World War II’s end and 1964; the largest generation, according to CNN, in U.S. history — plan to work past age 65.
Money is one reason. A number of baby boomers reportedly saved too little and incurred too much debt even before the Recession, according to Gallup.
In some cases, boomers just enjoy working. In the health care industry, for example, many consider the position they’ve worked for years to obtain as something that defines their life, according to the American Hospital Association’s H&HN magazine. As a result, some are reluctant to leave it.
In other instances, boomers’ reasons for postponing retirement are mixed. Twenty-seven percent of workers age 65 and older say they’re still employed partially because of need, and partially because they want to be, according to Pew Research Center research.
For decades, assuming most employees planned to retire at 65 was the norm. Today, this isn’t always the case — and it can throw a company’s succession planning completely off course.
Because of its size, the baby-boom generation stands to have a significant impact on the workforce in coming years. To avoid a potentially damaging productivity drop-off, employers need to be prepared to fill positions baby boomers are about to vacate.
A succession plan that involves adding new hires to eventually take over for (and possibly be trained by) employees who don’t actually want to retire until their 70s or beyond, however, can leave you with a costly overstaffing issue.
Do you know what your organization’s baby-boom generation employees are planning to do once they hit 65? If not, you need to ask.
The Age Discrimination in Employment act prohibits taking any adverse action against an employee because the worker is 40 or older; however, it’s OK to ask employees about retirement, according to HRHero.com, because asking for business-related reasons qualifies as a valid motive. (It’s a good idea to confirm, however, that your state doesn’t have any additional laws that apply.)
HRHero.com suggests you phrase the question broadly and ask boomers about long-term goals with the company, possibly also extending the question to younger employees. Don’t ask repeatedly, which can be viewed as pushing for a specific answer (and, potentially, age discrimination).
Depending on your employees’ responses, you may find yourself confronting one of the following scenarios:
Facing a baby boomer mass exodus — and a resulting skills gap?
Make it easier for boomers to stay. Entrepreneur suggests providing incentives for select employees to remain at the organization and work an additional five to seven years past age 65, in addition to eliminating any succession planning programs that strongly encourage executives to retire early.
If, despite retention efforts, you find you’ll have large amounts of baby boomers leaving, Workforce magazine suggests sponsoring specialized training and carefully documenting processes to help grow employees’ skill sets — and ensure your company’s institutional knowledge level remain consistent.
Worried about managing both younger and older workers during a transition period?
Keep efficiency constant by creating management strategies employees of various ages will thrive under. A recent study conducted by MTV found that to be productive, 61 percent of millennials said they need specific direction from their boss. Half the amount of boomers felt that way — preferring, as the Huffington Post noted, to receive objectives and be left alone to work.
Trying to keep boomers who stayed on board as productive as possible in a changing workplace?
Not surprisingly, engaged employees, according to Gallup, tend to have better productivity levels than disengaged workers.If baby boomers plan to work past the typical retirement age — particularly for financial reasons — an engagement plan that targets their age group can help stress that they’re part of the team.
The baby-boomer generation often responds well to emotional rewards, according to U.S. News & World Report, such as feeling they’re needed and are contributing to overall goals, in contrast to younger employees, who may find money and promotions to be stronger motivators. Providing frequent praise and recognition can help ensure boomers feel appreciated — and hopefully keep them engaged during the remaining years they work at your organization.
Take this brief survey to see how your succesion plan grades out: