Potential Loss of Baby Boomers Has Employers Scrambling

Don Tennant
Slide Show

The CIO-Millennial Divide: Struggling to Keep Up with Younger Workers' Tech Support Expectations

A poll of human resource professionals released on Monday found that more than 70 percent of the respondents see the loss of talented older workers as a problem or a potential problem in their organizations.

 

The results of the poll, conducted jointly by the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP, showed that U.S. employers are ramping up skills training and employee benefits as a means of closing skills gaps left when Baby Boomers retire, and of retaining and recruiting older workers (defined as workers 50 and older). Here are some of the key findings:

 

In which basic skills do older workers have an advantage over younger workers (defined as workers 31 and younger)?

 

  • Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.) (51 percent)
  • Technical (computer, engineering, mechanical, etc.) (33 percent)
  • Mathematics (computation) (16 percent)
  • Reading comprehension (in English) (13 percent)
  • English language (spoken) (12 percent)



In which applied skills do older workers have an advantage over younger workers?

 

  • Professionalism/work ethic (52 percent)
  • Critical thinking/problem solving (27 percent)
  • Written communications (16 percent)
  • Lifelong learning/self-direction (16 percent)
  • Leadership (15 percent)
  • Oral communications (12 percent)
  • Ethics/social responsibility (12 percent)
  • Information technology application (11 percent)
  • Teamwork/collaboration (10 percent)
  • Creativity/innovation (4 percent)


What steps have organizations taken to retain and recruit older workers?

 

  • Increased training and cross-training (45 percent)
  • Developed succession planning (38 percent)
  • Hired retired employees as consultants or temporary workers (30 percent)
  • Offered flexible work arrangements (27 percent)
  • Designed part-time positions to attract older workers (24 percent)


What actions have organizations taken to evaluate their current and future critical talent needs?

 

  • Conducted strategic workforce assessments to identify needs for the next five years (40 percent)
  • Identified potential skills gaps for the next five years (36 percent)
  • Analyzed the impact of workers age 50 and over leaving their organizations (29 percent)


Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 10, 2012 3:24 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

Anthony... oh Anthony.  Where to begin.

Most STEM graduates pursue non-STEM related careers.  There are plenty of American college grads available for these jobs.  The shortage shouting is complete non-sense because any true shortage would be evidenced by rising salaries.

If you look at IT salaries, they have not even maintained pace with inflation.  Salaries are getting lower!  I would like those claiming a shortage to explain that one.  Care to explain, Anthony?

Manipulating the market by allowing lower cost foreign labor access is a sure way to discourage native workers from pursuing STEM degrees or STEM careers. 

Allow the market to work.  When IT salaries rise because of true shortages, STEM enrollments will rise and people who would have pursued other occupations are more likely to return.  The IT industry doesn't want to compete for labor, and there in-lies the problem.  They expect the government to carve out special solutions so that the world is their oyster - and they can bypass the American worker (who also happens to be their biggest customer base). 

The problem with your suggestion Anthony is that this is my nation.  It really is about I/me/us citizens.  So long as this country is a democracy and we have a say (which may not be for much longer if corporate campaign contributions aren't controlled) the interests of citizens should come first.  This is a government that should be of and for the people.  Not of and for the corporation, who want you to believe their corporate entity represents a person with rights of actual human beings.

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Apr 10, 2012 3:28 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

Don, most baby boomers cannot afford to leave the workforce.  They are the first generation where most do not have a pension - and most 401k funds have just now started to break even (5 lost years of growth is allot of retirement money). 

Most boomers aren't prepared financially for retirement.  Trust me, if they start dropping out of the IT workforce it won't be by choice.  It will probably be forcibly.  Skid Row is going gray.

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Apr 10, 2012 5:06 AM Raymond Lavine Raymond Lavine  says:

As with others who have commented....there is a disconnect.  If older workers are valued and they have the skills employees want -- why are they the first to be fired or let go and the last to be hired?

How the poll was conducted and the reality is at variance to me. It is the same with the Affordable Health Act (Obama Cares). People want the changes but they are stuck on the idea that more people need to own health insurance.

People complain that they are paying for health care for those who do not have benefits and then complain when there is a plan to help people obtain health care.

It seems to me that the questions in the poll and reality are at variance and what is written here cannot be statistically accurate.

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Apr 10, 2012 7:08 AM Jarl Kubat Jarl Kubat  says:

Gray hair and experience of the baby boomers in my opinion will trump new college graduates every time. I believe the baby boomers offer a more committed and attention to detail employee that only comes with age.

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Apr 10, 2012 8:29 AM SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6  says:

I am amazed that people still feel comfortable retiring in the conventional sense. I would think that as long as somebody is willing to hire me for a reasonable salary in my field, I'll keep working. Too risky to stop working in this gutted economy. Our CEOs who make 450 times what an average worker makes are only too eager to replace a 50 year old with 2 25 year olds for half the salary each.

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Apr 10, 2012 10:47 AM Anthony Anthony  says:

If baby boomers were to retire in coming years, congress should have increased the H1B cap from current 65,000 to atleast 125,000 to fill this gap.

Now guys dont start that when unemployment rate is so high we should first hire American etc. Had there been any replacement available in America, these baby boomers would have replaced a decade ago. Be realistic!

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Apr 11, 2012 2:12 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says: in response to SealTeam6 SealTeam6

>>Our CEOs who make 450 times what an average worker makes are only too eager to replace a 50 year old with 2 25 year olds for half the salary each.

If two people can perform the same work for the price of one, then that's the value for that effort. Your example does not illustrate age discrimination but cost of two people being equal to the cost of one person with more people to do the work. Why should that be considered as age discrimination? Sounds more like efficiency (same price, more people hence more work done).

Leadership positions in private companies usually charge a premium compared to the average worker. If CEOs aren't worth 450 times what an average worker makes, then why not just offer a lower salary and fix the problem? It's a private company so whoever owns the private company decides the salaries.

The head of state & government POTUS who is voted in by the public makes $400,000 a year along with other benifits which is considerably higher than what the average worker makes too. Anyone complaining?

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Apr 11, 2012 2:19 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says:

The root cause is when people don't have a saving mentality and a close knit family to fall back on where children take responsibility to care for their parents when needed. They spend beyond their means when they did make money, save nothing if not very little and depend largely on social security and to some extent, retirement benifits, instead of saving and investing on their own for retirement and a rainy day while they were more able bodied to work and make money. Hence, these people need to work well into their mid 60s and 70s to have a sustainable income.

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Apr 11, 2012 2:40 AM SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6  says: in response to George Alexander


If two people can perform the same work for the price of one, then that's the value for that effort.

"if" being the key word. Do you think 2 25 year olds in most fields have the same experience as a 50year old with 25 years of exoerience ? Would you trust a 2 25 year old attorneys to handle your defense better than say a 50 year old attorney ? Funny how in most such fields like mediciine and law, your attitudes of interchangeability are frowned on.

The head of state & government POTUS who is voted in by the public makes $400,000 a year along with other benifits which is considerably higher than what the average worker makes too. Anyone complaining?

Most people who get to that position actually are making lower salaries while in office than what they did in their private sector jobs. I don't think the same applies to CEOs whose salaries are decided by an incestuous clique of board members who "vote" to fix each others salaries.

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Apr 11, 2012 4:23 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says: in response to SealTeam6 SealTeam6

>>Do you think 2 25 year olds in most fields have the same experience as a 50year old with 25 years of exoerience ?

Which fields are you talking about? Be more specific. If it's programming or desktop/operational support, it's a lot easier to figure that out. My cousin is a 30 year old tax accountant and he's my go to guy for all things taxes when I contract. I don't need to look at age when I have questions on taxes.

>>Would you trust a 2 25 year old attorneys to handle your defense better than say a 50 year old attorney ?

Let's say I don't. Then I go for the 50 year old. So you see how the market works? I have a choice in deciding who I hire. Employers have a choice too.

>> Funny how in most such fields like mediciine and law, your attitudes of interchangeability are frowned on.

Funny that you think all professions are the same. Desktop/helpdesk support can be done by a good candidate of one or two years experience even if he is just 23 years old. 5 year experienced .Net or Java programmer who is 30 years old can be as good if not better as someone who has been programming into his 50s. Even among doctors, a specialist in his 50s does not automatically guarentee correct procedure during an operation compared to a specialist in his 30s and infact, you find many attendings in their mid 30s running departments right after 5 and 6 year residencies (my wife's and her family are in the medical field so I know this part).

So you're generalization is incorrect and each profession and the level of application in that particular work environment needs to be examined. Worse is the myth that age and experience after a certain threshold are one of the top factors that decide quality of work. That's just a preception and the IT industry destroys a lot of this conventional wisdom and exponentially disrupts whatever it touches. Apple, microsoft, facebook, google, digg, hotmail, yahoo.... their founders were all in their 50s with much experience when they started companies. oh wait, no...they weren't...they were right out of college. There are quite a lot of programmers who start in their teens and by the time they're out of college, they're real damn good to get hired in a professional capacity.

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Apr 11, 2012 6:00 AM SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6  says: in response to George Alexander

Yes, the founders were all young Turks who brought in a brave new world order. Right. Here's a 2005 Fortune article  of relevance.


How to Battle the Coming Brain Drain

If you scan the reams of "best advice" in the preceding pages, you'll notice a pattern: Many of the key advice givers are older and wiser bosses. No surprise there. It's the managers in their 50s and 60s who have had time to develop the most valuable knowledge and experience. But few large companies seem to prize that wisdom anymore. Intent on cutting costs, many employers are trying to get rid of people over 50, despite rising age-discrimination litigation.
That's an exceedingly shortsighted policy. By forcing out the employees with the most experience, companies may be inadvertently pushing critical knowledge out the door before it is shared with the next generation. They'll probably regret it before long, since demographics suggest that business is facing a dangerous brain drain from voluntary retirements alone. And those folks' lost smarts can cost an awful lot to replicate.

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2005/03/21/8254854/index.htm

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Apr 11, 2012 7:47 AM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to SealTeam6 SealTeam6

This is absolutely crazy. There are still dozens of applicants for every job opening, and it's a miracle to be granted an interview, even when it's a job you could do in your sleep. This is even true when your skill set includes the latest buzz words they say they want. I'm seeing older workers escorted out the door all over the place. The labor market is still behaving as if there is an incredible glut of labor for all skill sets. Never mind what someone says or writes, it's what is actually happening that I look at.

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Apr 11, 2012 11:17 AM Joe Wasylyk Joe Wasylyk  says:

When will we get a just Society? Just as there is racial discrimination there will be age discrimination. I believe that it's still the employer who is calling the shots and holding a crying towel at the same time as there are skill shortages.  Younger people have a high unemployment rate and as a result should be given the chance to start their working career before they drown in their tuition fee and credit card loans. On the other hand, older workers have maturity, wisdom, confidence, knowledge and resources.  By the Age of 50 I believe that older workers have other options eg. becoming a business or social entrepreneur without having to compete with younger workers.  To help address this critical situation on my website I have a new book which will hopefully provide some solutions to this critical problem causing a battle among the different generations of people. 

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