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As Baby Boomers Retire, It's Time to Replenish Talent
Business Journal

As Baby Boomers Retire, It's Time to Replenish Talent

by Brandon Rigoni and Amy Adkins

Story Highlights

  • As boomers leave the workforce, companies face a talent vacuum
  • Four strategies help transition talent in and out of companies

This article is part of an ongoing series analyzing how baby boomers -- those born from 1946-1964 in the U.S. -- behave differently from other generations as consumers and in the workplace. The series also explores how the aging of the baby-boom generation will affect politics and well-being.

For years, employers were told to prepare for the mass exodus of talent, experience and skill that would occur when baby boomers began reaching retirement age. But when the Great Recession hit and many boomers were forced to delay their retirement plans, companies got a reprieve and moved on to other, more pressing issues.

Though the U.S. economy has been steadily improving in the past few years, baby boomers aren't leaving their jobs in droves as originally expected. But they are leaving at a steady pace, and many companies seem largely unprepared for their absence, especially as the generation gap widens and they find themselves with an impending talent vacuum. With the youngest baby boomers turning 51 this year and the average U.S. retirement age at 62, organizations still have time to bridge their talent gap.

Here are four strategies for transitioning talent into -- and out of -- the workforce:

  1. Study the best. Through decades of research, Gallup has consistently found that natural talent is the most crucial factor to consider when hiring and developing employees. As more baby boomers inch closer to retirement, companies should ensure they are using tools such as talent-based assessments to identify and document the talents of their top performers. Once organizations understand the talents that define their most successful baby boomers, they can use that insight to create recruitment and hiring strategies aimed at systematically finding candidates with those same talents.
  2. Conduct experience reviews. Though Gallup considers natural talent to be the most important predictor in an employee's performance, experience also plays a part in their success. But in many companies, experience is rarely discussed or documented outside a resume. Leaders and managers may have a general understanding of the experiences that have shaped their top performers, but they probably can't point to which ones were most influential in developing their talents. To remedy this, organizations should conduct experience reviews with their most successful baby boomers -- especially those in leadership positions -- to determine what experiences these employees have in common and come up with a plan to ensure that potential replacements have similar opportunities.
  3. Create intergenerational partnerships. Generation gaps are a hot topic in companies today, especially when discussing baby boomers and millennials. By placing boomers in mentoring and coaching roles, organizations not only can diffuse workplace conflict, they can also provide boomers with opportunities to transfer their knowledge to their younger colleagues. Beyond these one-on-one pairings, companies can also make a concerted effort to create diverse, intergenerational project teams to ensure wider, ongoing learning and skill-building experiences.
  4. Establish a knowledge management system. Few companies have a plan for capturing employee knowledge and storing it in a way that is easily accessible. Knowledge management should be viewed as a key business strategy and given the same time and attention as any other IT or human resources initiative. As more baby boomers prepare for retirement, companies need to consider their processes for capturing, storing and communicating the vital knowledge these workers have amassed. Without a knowledge management system in place, organizations put themselves at risk of brain drain.

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