Avoiding the Boomer Drain

Like most developed countries, the U.S. faces a major demographic challenge. This year, the oldest of nearly 80 million baby boomers turn 65. According to the Pew Research Center, about 10,000 Americans reach that milestone every day.

Most organizations can’t afford to suddenly lose such a reservoir of work experience and seasoned judgment. And that maturity and judgment is of particular value in forging collaborative teams within a workforce that now includes four and soon five generations.

To keep those experts on board as long as possible, human resource professionals are pursuing innovative strategies like flexible work arrangements, phased retirement, and wellness programs such as weight reduction and health risk assessments.

Our efforts will be critical to business success. Plus, avoiding a sudden talent drain will enable the U.S. to deal with ongoing economic storms and stay competitive in a global marketplace. That’s why last year SHRM was pleased to form a partnership with AARP—the world’s largest association for people age 50 and older—to promote and help implement strategies for leveraging the talents of older workers.

As one element of that partnership, this fall we were privileged to co-sponsor three events in Chicago honoring the 50 domestic and 15 international winners of AARP’s 2011 Best Employers for Workers Over 50 Awards. 

On behalf of SHRM, I was proud to be there and congratulate these far-sighted organizations and their great HR teams. They serve as models for all U.S. businesses, and their best practices should be studied by creative HR teams everywhere. However, I was just as proud in knowing that such strategic thinking is already typical among SHRM members.

Last year, in collaboration with AARP, we surveyed HR professionals in the U.S. to gauge current levels of strategic workforce planning. We were pleased to find that almost 60 percent of the organizations surveyed had implemented some steps to retain, engage, and attract older workers. But we know more work needs to be done, so we have scheduled a follow-up survey next year to measure progress.

Creative workforce planning is the starting point for a comprehensive older worker strategy. We are now co-sponsoring and promoting AARP’s free, online Workforce Assessment Tool. It will give you a snapshot of your workforce at different time intervals, and make recommendations on possible strategies. You can find it here.

More will come from our AARP partnership, as we combine this tool with the best SHRM practices and ideas offered by SHRM members to address the challenges of a maturing, multi-generational workforce.

Please take this opportunity to assess how your organizations and employers are focusing on baby boomers—and this vital workplace issue.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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