4 Ways for HR to Overcome Aging Workforce Issues

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The
aging of the U.S. workforce has been called the “silver tsunami.” Ten
thousand Baby Boomers turn 65 every day—a trend that began in 2011
and will continue until 2030. Despite their reputation for being workaholics,
their average retirement age is 61 to 65, which means that the workplace needs
to prepare for a veritable tidal wave of turnover.

Between
Baby Boomer retirements and Millennial job-hopping, HR professionals are often
left scrambling to curb the damage caused by massive employee exodus.

“These
demographic changes will have profound impacts on employers as they enter a
‘sellers’ market where there are fewer employees with the necessary skills than
there are good jobs,” said Linda Duxbury, a professor at Sprott School of
Business at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

​It’s
expected that by 2020, 31 million jobs will become available as Boomers retire,
and another 24 million new jobs will be created. However, the population of
younger workers with education and skills to replace Boomers isn’t large enough
or growing fast enough
 to make up for these departures,
according to a Georgetown University report, which predicts a shortfall of 5
million qualified workers.

As
companies grapple with how to recruit, retain and develop employees of all
ages, strategic human resource management will be critical to their success,
said David DeLong, Ph.D., president of Smart Workforce Strategies, a consulting
firm in Concord, Mass., and author of Lost Knowledge: Confronting the
Threat of an Aging Workforce
 (Oxford University Press, 2004). He said
that organizations facing excessive talent losses should address several
pressing questions: 

§ 
How can they encourage valuable Boomer employees to postpone
retirement?

§ 
How can they transfer Boomer knowledge, skills and
experience to midcareer professionals?

§ 
How can they develop employees across all age groups?

§ 
How can they attract, engage and retain younger employees?

Encourage Some Boomers to
Stay

Many
traditional industries are facing the daunting prospect of “flash
retirements,” with large numbers of employees all leaving at once. To stem
the tide, some offer phased retirement programs that allow retirement-eligible
employees to work reduced schedules or downshift into less stressful roles.

The
Work to Retirement program at Mercyhealth System in Janesville, Wis., offers
flexible schedules and part-time work as part of the employee benefit program.
Similarly, Scripps Health in San Diego allows retiring employees to work
part-time schedules while maintaining eligibility for health and other
benefits.

Before
launching a formal phased retirement program, however, you need a clear
understanding of the quality of your older workforce, Duxbury said.

“About
50 percent of Boomers have retired in place. They have lost faith in their
employer and aren’t always willing to go the extra mile. Their presence is
preventing others from moving up,” Duxbury said.

She
encouraged HR professionals to think strategically about which employees add
value and who needs to be eased out the door.

“If
you want your skilled and talented Boomers to stay, you have to make it worth
their while. Many want to leave because of workload. If you want to keep them,
look at work reduction or job sharing,” she said.

Even
those who can be convinced to postpone retirement will likely have an end date
in mind, which makes it incumbent on employers to figure out how to make the
best use of these valued employees’ remaining time. 

Build a Mentoring Culture

“There
is little question that many experienced workers will be leaving their jobs in
the next decade. And that giant sucking sound you will hear is all the
knowledge being drained out of organizations by retirement and other forms of
turnover,“ DeLong said.

Mentoring
and coaching are two of the most effective ways for Boomers to transfer their
knowledge and expertise to younger, less experienced employees.

"Many
Baby Boomers would love to take on coaching and mentoring roles where their
whole job is knowledge transfer,” Duxbury said.

“Mentors
elevate and escalate knowledge transfer, which is useful in shortening a
learning curve,” added Julie Kantor, president and CEO of Twomentor LLC, a
management consulting firm in Bethesda, Md., that helps organizations build
mentoring cultures.

​At
NASA, the best way to transfer tacit—difficult to explain—knowledge to less
experienced workers is through two critical steps, said Edward Rogers, Ph.D.,
chief knowledge officer at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Md.: 

1.    On-the-job
mentoring that allows mentees to see the consequences of their actions.

2.    Sharing
and explaining information in context so mentees can understand “why”
as well as “how." 

NASA’s
phased retirement program allows retiring employees to work on a part-time
basis in training and mentoring their replacements. The assignment ends when
their proteges are able to fulfill their responsibilities. NASA also invites
recent retirees back for similar purposes, highlighting how an alumni network
can become a treasure trove of mentoring resources and possibilities.

Statistics
show that mentoring can have myriad organizational benefits: It reduces
turnover, increases job satisfaction, develops employee capabilities and
demonstrates to employees that the organization is invested in them.

As an
HR professional in health care and sales organizations, Rene Petrin discovered
that many companies weren’t doing enough to develop their employees. Petrin
launched Management Mentors Inc., a consulting company in Waltham, Mass., that
helps organizations develop mentoring programs. He views mentoring as a vehicle
that enables organizations to implement a strategic game plan around
recruitment, retention and professional development. While mentoring often
occurs informally in organizations, Petrin sees a qualitative difference when
the relationship is structured and formalized. 

Invest in Employee Career Development

"Companies
need to view human capital differently,” Duxbury said. “We are seeing
a fundamental shift in the changing nature of the employer-employee
relationship as organizations seek to attract and retain good employees in a
declining labor market.”

Employers
that are willing to make an investment in developing their employees are more
likely to retain their top talent. In fact, some organizations are using
internal career coaches to help employees with career development. The 2016 Conference
Board Global Executive Coaching Survey
 showed that career
coaching is now being integrated into performance management and is being used
to help employees develop career paths and create a leadership pipeline.

“A
principal cause of employee turnover is the lack of attention to career
opportunities,” said Alex Avery, a member of the HR Leadership Program at
GE in the Cincinnati area.

“An
individual career coach can offer more attention to individual employee career
paths,” Avery said, noting that this one-on-one interaction can enhance
performance, build commitment and decrease turnover.

Google’s Guru-plus employs
350 internal coaches in 60 offices worldwide to address career management,
leadership training and employee well-being, among other topics. Coaching
sessions range from one to eight sessions per employee and are conducted
virtually using Google Hangouts.

Another
option is for HR to work with managers to review their employees’ job
descriptions and, if necessary, redesign those jobs to enrich or enlarge them,

though
Duxbury said she is concerned that corporate leaders’ overemphasis on
operational efficiency can undermine managers.

“The
whole American economy runs on doing more with less,” Duxbury said.
“Younger people don’t necessarily want management roles because it’s not a
good job for work/life balance.”

She
advises employers to find ways to make managerial jobs more attractive. By
hiring more support staff, employers can free up talented employees up for more
important management responsibilities.

Cultivate
Millennials

As
Boomers exit the workplace, Millennials will make up roughly half of the U.S.
workforce by 2020.

“The
problem of managing through major demographic change is more complicated than
just coping with retirement,” DeLong said. “Younger cohorts bring a
different set of values and expectations, which creates new recruiting and
retention issues.”

The
2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Winning Over the Next Generation of Leaders,
highlights a pressing challenge: Two-thirds of Millennial survey respondents
plan to leave their jobs by 2020. Add in the continuing exodus of Boomers and
that could be a disruptive amount of turnover.

The
common complaint that Millennials “aren’t loyal” misunderstands who
they are and what they’re looking for. According to the Deloitte report, their
top five priorities are: 

1.    Work/life
balance.

2.    Opportunity
to progress as leaders.

3.    Flexible
work arrangements.

4.    Sense
of purpose.

5.    Professional
development training programs. 

Insurance
company Liberty Mutual wanted to attract—and keep—its Millennial workers. To
counter the image among Millennials that insurance companies are stodgy and
boring, Liberty Mutual recreated its corporate culture to make it match
Millennials’ priorities. Among the company’s offerings:

1.   Paid
internships that frequently lead to full-time employment.

2.    Lengthy
onboarding and training programs to address “preparedness gaps.”

3.    Support
for continuing education, including tuition reimbursement for graduate school.

4.    Executive
and peer mentoring programs.

5.    Opportunities
to work in the community through “Give with Liberty"and "Serve
with Liberty” programs.

6.    Flexible
work arrangements that support work/life balance.

7.    Merit-based
compensation. 

Notably, many of the
qualities or opportunities that Millennials prize are equally appealing to
other generations, including flexible work arrangements, work/life balance and
meaningful work. 

Converge
HR Solutions offers an HR Outsourcing service that facilitates all of your
companies HR needs.  Converge can help
build your mentoring culture by creating all of your handbooks and assisting in
employee relations, so your employees know what kind of workplace is being
established.  Training and Orientations
& Onboarding are two more key aspects of this service, as it can help
eliminate “preparedness gaps” as discussed by Liberty Mutual above as a crucial
component used in their company. For
more information regarding the HR Outsourcing service and what else it has to
offer, or any of our other services in general, visit our website at https://convergehrsolutions.com/ or email us directly at info@convergehrsolutions.com or give us a call at 610-296-8550.

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