WIll a Swell of Baby Boom Retirees Drown Your BusinessThere is a tidal wave approaching. Well, a tidal wave of baby boomer retirees – and it may leave some employers dry of a good portion of their current workforce unless they take the necessary steps to ensure that they hire, train, and retain the talented young people currently in the employment pool.

It’s estimated that 76 million baby boomers will retire within the next 15 years, and a 2008 Congressional Research Service Report discusses the imminent labor shortage. The report mentions some of the industries expected to be the hardest hit—including manufacturing, insurance, real estate, and transportation. The report also mentions just how intense the competition will be for employers in these and other industries to attract new talent as the pool of eligible, non-retired candidates dwindles.

Preventing A Sudden Shortage Of Employees

Employers in all industries should start planning for the employee shortages they potentially face in the next 12—15 years. Investing in new employees now is one way to do just that. But to attract the best employees, you may need to consider your business operations. After all, the work environment that appeals to baby boomers is not the same one that impresses the mid-20-somethings of Gen Y. Below are some tips to consider if your business is interested in attracting some of the newer generation of workers.

• Focus on the team rather than the individual. Studies such as the one conducted by Knoll in 2010 on Gen Y have shown that younger workers value collaboration more than their older counterparts. They like to be involved in companywide decisions and movements, and they appreciate corporate missions and strategies that incorporate their input. As team-oriented workers, the performance of the company as a whole impacts their individual motivations and dedication.

• Rethink benefits and policies. The Knoll study also suggests that Gen Y values are focused on being nontraditional and integrating personal and professional life. Some of the ways a business can capitalize on those traits include:
o Allowing flexible work hours
o Hosting after-work events
o Focusing on work objectives rather than timecard entries
o Becoming early adopters of technology when appropriate
o Encouraging employees to try different forms of client and coworker communication, such as social media
o Offering unusual amenities that add real value for employees. Some of these can even be free to the business, such as arranging a dry cleaning pickup and drop-off service.

• Foster career growth. Recent years have brought a rise in corporate-sponsored educational programs. These programs offer industry- or company-specific learning objectives that help employees increase their value to a company and put them on the road to promotions. By investing this kind of time in your employees, you not only show them that growth with your business is possible but that you care enough to help them achieve it.

Stopgap Measures for Protecting Your Business from Employee Shortages

While investing in Gen Y-ers, there are also steps that you can take to help stem the damage from retiring baby boomers. Ideas include:

• Segregate duties. Breaking up responsibilities among multiple employees allows there to be less dependence on one.

• Cross-train. When you cross-train your employees, you have a built-in backup system to compensate for sick or retiring employees.

• Identify strengths and weaknesses. The rank-and-file employees in your business create your company’s future in more ways than one. In addition to creating your products and fulfilling customer needs, many of these employees may have the talent, education, and experience to fulfill some of the leadership roles of your business. Have all of your supervisors work with each employee in your company to help identify these strengths.

With the right planning and leadership changes, you can protect your business from potential fallout from baby boomer retirement. CRI’s business advisors specialize in helping businesses navigate their challenges—including personnel. We may not be able to predict the weather, but we do understand the steps to proactively prepare for tomorrow’s business.