When the Boomers bust

Much has been written about the impact of the Baby Boomer generation.

Much has been written about the impact of the Baby Boomer generation. This “pig in a python” has been slowly working its way through our society and economy for some 65 years. At 78 million people strong, more than twice the entire population of Canada, US Baby Boomers have changed the rules at each step of the way – from kindergarten to retirement planning.

For the first time in history, the next big impact of this generation may be not from its presence, but rather its absence. Many experts are beginning to consider the huge experience and talent drain that will occur as such a large population leaves the workforce in the next decade or two.

With unemployment figures hovering at uncomfortable levels in most developed countries, it's hard to imagine a looming talent shortage. But in the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of company CEOs, only 12% said it was becoming easier to hire skilled employees. More than two-thirds of the 1,250 company leaders surveyed cited the talent pipeline as a concern for their future growth.

Many employers are starting to act. Some will encourage Boomers to stay involved longer, even on a part-time or consulting basis. Some are setting up mentoring and training programs to maximize knowledge retention in the organization as retirements increase.

And many companies are responding to the changing needs of younger generations who are entering the workforce. After all, there are lots of smart, talented Echo Boomers coming along – you just might have to fight harder to get them.

Appealing to future generations of employees may take more than a good salary and a 401(k). You'll need to focus more on employee engagement. Your recruits will consider your sustainability profile, social media presence, business model, mission, and reputation to decide if they want to engage with you.

If all else fails and you find yourself in a jam in 10 or 15 years, give me a call. I'll call you back…when I come in off the lake.

Jeff Altheide is EVP at Gibbs & Soell.

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