A Guest Post by Noah Rue
The baby boomer generation has had an incredible impact on this country. Now, those born between 1946-1964 are creating yet another impact. Between the years 2011 and 2029, about 10,000 baby boomers are expected to reach the age of retirement each day. While that number is fascinating in terms of just how concentrated the generation was/is, there is something else to consider as more baby boomers start to retire; how it will impact your business, especially in technology and IT industries.
The loss of experienced workers can create big problems for certain industries. Those in the utility industry, as well as financial and accounting firms, are going through 15 years of staffing shortages.
When it comes to tech and IT industries, technology is moving at such a pace that it can be hard to “teach experience,” so as the baby boomer generation continues to retire, finding adequate replacements without giving them additional training that costs time and money. This has been referred to as the “Retirement Brain Drain.”
So, what does brain drain really mean for business, and what can your company do to combat it?
What is “Retirement Brain Drain?”
Because baby boomers are retiring at such a rapid rate, they are taking years of knowledge and experience with them. That’s exactly what this kind of brain drain is; the loss of either technical, institutional, or personal knowledge from a specific company or industry. It impacts a variety of different careers.
For example, most truckers in the U.S. are middle-aged or elderly men. There is already a trucker shortage, and with long driving hours, new rules and regulations, and a seemingly poor work-life balance, there aren’t enough incoming drivers to replace those who are leaving or retiring. On top of that, drivers can expect to see their tonnage increase by 25.6% by 2030. So, with heavier loads and longer hours, the industry may not be appealing to the younger drivers who are needed to replace retirees.
The healthcare field is another great example of how brain drain can impact an industry. If a nurse, for example, works with several particular patients and learns about their likes and dislikes, understands their personality, and those patients come to trust her/him, once that nurse retires, a replacement won’t automatically know everything about the patients the previous nurse did. That could cause a lack of trust, and could even cause those patients to go elsewhere.
In the technology/IT industries, informational and institutional knowledge is something that takes years to build. A technician might know hundreds of different programs and can master them all, but that likely took years to learn and do proficiently. When they retire, it could take someone new just as long (if not longer) to reach that point. This learning process can end up costing your company time and money.
Preparing Your Employees for the Future
Thankfully, there are things you can do now to help with brain drain so your business doesn’t suffer as the baby boomer generation continues to retire.
First, talk to your older employees about their intentions. If you have a better idea of when they plan to retire, you can work with them to make an exit plan that will run smoothly for both of you. When you have a timeline in place, you can help your less-tenured employees with some of the following solutions:
- Mentoring programs to reduce training time.
- A knowledgebase that captures information from long-standing employees.
- Contextual guidance tools.
- Phased retirement allows an individual to take on less work overtime until they fully retire.
All of these options will help to make the impact of an employee’s retirement less jarring to your company and your other employees. Keep in mind that some of your employees might feel overwhelmed with the influx of new responsibilities or work they will have to take on after someone within the company retires. Keeping good employees on board should be your top priority. You can do that by offering both small perks and big benefits packages. Small skills competitions, “family-style” events, and get-togethers with one another can make your entire team feel closer and more appreciated, which makes everyone want to stay on board.
Benefits packages don’t have to be so standard anymore. Instead, try to get an idea of what your employees really want. Listen to their major concerns and make sure you’re addressing their needs as you consider which benefits to offer. While things like health insurance and a solid retirement plan are still important to most employees, it’s also relevant to consider offering more flexible working hours, more vacation time and paid maternity/paternity leave to keep employees satisfied.
Can New Hires Fill in the Gaps?
In addition to keeping your best employees on board, replacing your retirees means hiring new people into your company. It’s important to trust both your instincts and all the data and information you’ve collected into your overall business intelligence when it comes to the hiring process. Business intelligence can help you to determine:
- What skills are necessary for positions being vacated
- Which candidates match those skillsets
- Interview questions for the hiring process
- Collated answers from top candidates
Business intelligence can also make more productive use of your time and allow you to focus on your key goals.
Pay attention to the candidates you’re interviewing, and invite them to spend time with your team before offering them a position. Their aspirations and goals for themselves should be on board with your own. But, understand that they likely won’t be able to fully replace the experienced employee you lost in every way. In some cases, when you’re forced to hire new employees, you’ll have to expect that it will take time for them to catch up and gain the experience their predecessor had.
So, while this era of baby boomer retirement can be trying on many different industries, everyone started somewhere — including the retirees you’re letting go. Don’t be afraid to look to your other employees or take a chance on someone new to give them their start, too.