Here’s a sobering statistic: Over nearly the next 20 years, there will be approximately 10,000 people turning 65 every single day and typically retiring soon after. As the aging Baby Boomer generation transitions out of the workforce there will be a predictable shortage of younger workers available to take on key jobs. Even as the U.S. unemployment rate temporarily stabilizes at around 8 percent, there are millions of fewer younger workers to replace the soon-to-be-retired segment of the workforce.
The numbers shortage of available talent is only the first symptom of the growing skills deficit. As the old guard leaves its post, the younger replacements will have much less experience and require significantly more training to catch up their skills with those of their departing, elder colleagues. This process will create an extended skills gap in many industries, such as engineering, education, health care, and defense manufacturing, to name a few.
Not only will the younger workforce demonstrate a marked initial decrease in skills, but will also work differently than their predecessors. The much studied Millennial generation has been reared expecting immediate feedback and communication. Flexibility will be the new watchword when scheduling and determining work location, and value of work will be considered more frequently than traditional pay and benefits. The younger set will also crave more involvement in overall strategy rather than simply being instructed what to do without a greater context.
To meet the needs of the upcoming workforce shift, organizations can take several steps to deal with emerging workforce trends:
• As workers retire, organizations lose their accumulated knowledge and expertise. Performing a demographic risk analysis can help businesses make long-term plans to compensate for lost expertise and an influx of developing employees.
• Training and transitioning plans can be sped up to accommodate the quickening departures of more and more aging talent to train younger employees in best practices before the staffing drop off accelerates.
• Work environments, especially those in traditional organizations, should be reorganized to reflect the models exhibited by newer firms and start-ups. This means including more flexibility, transparency, engagement, and inclusion. The “gamfication” of the workplace can help create focused goals and shorter-term sub-goals, clear results, and increased creativity.
The Baby Boomers have functioned as the life blood of the workplace for at least the past two decades, and will continue to play a major role for some time to come. But the new workforce full of youth and unconventional perspectives has already begun to arrive and will only increase in the coming years. In order for organizations to remain competitive and continue to thrive, they must prepare and fully engage the wave of new workers that is arising to take the place of the receding tide of old guard workers as they inevitably retire.