While millions of Baby Boomer employees are expected to exit the workforce in the next 20 years, a new poll shows most employers have not yet assessed the impact of, or taken actions to cope with, the loss of skilled workers.

Some 72% of human resource professionals describe the loss of talent because of older workers retiring as a "problem" or "potential problem" for their organizations, according to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP released April 9. Some 19% of the 430 HR professionals polled were in manufacturing.

SHRM and AARP cited Pew Research Center data indicating that 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach age 65 every day during the next two decades. In 2011, the oldest of the 77 million Baby Boomers began turning age 65, the traditional retirement age.

Despite that, the SHRM-AARP poll, which focused on strategic workforce planning, finds that approximately 71% of those polled still have not conducted a strategic workforce planning assessment to analyze the impact of workers 50 and older who will leave their organizations.

HR managers said the actions their organizations have taken to prepare for the retirement of talented older workers include:

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

Only 17% of organizations said they had developed processes to capture institutional memory/organizational knowledge from employees close to retirement, while just 13% said they were providing training to upgrade the skills of older workers.

The poll asked HR professionals to identify the greatest basic skills and applied skills gaps between workers age 31 and younger compared with workers age 50 and older.

  • Basic skills -- more than half (51%) of human resource managers indicated they find older workers to have stronger writing, grammar, and spelling skills in English;
  • Applied skills -- more than half (52%) of human resource managers said older workers exhibit stronger professionalism/work ethic.

"Although we are encouraged to see that many organizations across the country are preparing for the challenge of Baby Boomer retirements, much more work needs to be done in both the short and long-term," said SHRM president and CEO, Hank Jackson. "That is why we are working together with AARP to provide organizations and their HR professionals with the tools they need to retain and engage their older, experienced talent."

Resources offered by the two organizations to U.S. businesses to help with workforce planning include:

  • AARP's free, online Workforce Assessment Tool which provides a snapshot of an organizations workforce and demographics and analyzes its programs to leverage the talents of its older workers.
  • The SHRM-AARP Partnership Resource Page on SHRM's website. The resource page includes poll and survey findings, articles, and links to the assessment tool, among others.

See also:

Providing 21st-Century Skills for 21st-Century Manufacturing