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Poll: Organizations Can Do More to Prepare for Talent Shortage as Boomers Retire  
 

11/17/2010  By Kathy Gurchiek 
 
 

Some organizations are looking at their current and future needs as the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation leads to a potential talent shortage. But more can be done to ensure that organizations have the talent they need to succeed, according to a
“Strategic Workforce Planning Poll” that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and AARP released in November 2010.

SHRM and AARP sought to find out if—and how—organizations are using strategic workforce planning assessment to prepare for an expected shortage of young workers when older workers retire.

“Strategic workforce planning assessment” was defined as using workforce modeling and scenario planning to identify potential skills gaps and talent shortages. Approximately 72 million Baby Boomers, according to the Population Reference Bureau, are approaching retirement age, and there are fewer entrants into the U.S. workforce to replace them.

However, while 82 percent of HR professionals polled are aware of a potential worker shortage, not all organizations are taking various steps to address such a shortage, the survey found.

“We share a natural concern about the coming changes in the workplace, and a common commitment to seek solutions,” SHRM President and CEO, Henry G. “Hank” Jackson wrote in “HR and the Aging Workforce: Two CEO Points of View,” a special supplement to the October 2010 issue of HR Magazine.

SHRM and AARP are working together, he said, to promote projects that raise awareness about the implications of an aging U.S. workforce.

The two organizations polled HR professionals—those with the job title of manager and above— in July 2010 and found that only 22 percent think that the retirement of Boomers will present a potential loss of talent for their organization over the next decade. Less than half (45 percent) see it as a potential problem, and one-third (33 percent) say it doesn’t present a problem. Eighty-two percent said it’s on their “radar screen” but have taken no proactive steps.

Overall, 41 percent of HR professionals said their organizations have done nothing and don’t plan to do anything to prepare for a possible worker shortage as Boomers retire. However, they have instituted steps not solely directed at Boomer retirement that can be applied in the event of a worker shortage. Among the most compelling actions, according to SHRM research analyst Amanda Benedict:

  • Conducted assessments in 2010 or will do so in 2011 to assess workforce needs and skills gaps.
  • Increased training and cross-training of young workers to address this potential shortage.
  • Increased recruiting efforts and developed succession plans and replacement charts.
  • Developed knowledge transfer processes.

Other actions include starting phased or gradual retirement, creating benefits to retain older workers and developing knowledge transfer processes.

Who’s Doing What

SHRM and AARP found that an organization’s makeup matters when it comes to preparing for a possible worker shortage.

Multinational organizations, for example, were more likely than U.S.-based organizations to have conducted an assessment from 2008 through 2009 to analyze the impact of workers’ retirement and to develop succession plans and replacement charts. Organizations with 25,000 or more employees were more likely than those with one to 499 employees to have conducted such an assessment by late 2007.

Publicly owned for-profit organizations were more likely than privately owned for-profit organizations to have conducted a strategic workforce planning assessment to identify workforce needs and skills gaps from 2008 through 2009. In addition, they were more likely than privately owned for-profits, nonprofits and government agencies to have developed succession plans and replacement charts.

Organizations with unionized workforces were more likely than those with nonunionized workforces to have conducted a strategic workforce planning assessment to identify workforce needs and skills by late 2007.

Government agencies were more likely than publicly owned for-profits to have started phased retirement programs.

Organizations in the Western United States were more likely than organizations in the Northeast to start automating processes to prepare for a possible worker shortage.

Attracting, Retaining Older Workers

Offering part-time positions to older workers (42 percent) and hiring retired employees as consultants or temporary workers (40 percent) are the most popular strategies being used to recruit and retain workers past traditional retirement age, the survey found. Offering flexible work arrangements (36 percent) is the third most popular strategy.

Organizations with 100 to 24,999 employees were more likely than those with fewer workers to hire retired employees as consultants or temporary workers.

Organizations with 25,000 or more employees were more likely than those with one to 99 employees to provide opportunities for older workers to transfer to jobs with reduced pay and responsibilities.

Companies with unionized workforces were more likely than those with nonunionized workforces to hire retired employees as consultants or temporary workers. Organizations with unionized workforces also were more likely than nonunionized workforces to report they expect to implement phased retirement and have implemented training to upgrade older workers’ skills, as strategies for recruiting and retaining workers who are past retirement age.

U.S.-based organizations were more likely than multinational organizations to offer part-time positions to older workers and to report they expect to offer phased retirement to recruit and retain workers past traditional retirement age.

Nonprofits were more likely than publicly owned for-profit organizations and privately owned for-profits to offer part-time positions to older workers. Nonprofits and government agencies were more likely than privately owned for-profits to provide training to upgrade older workers’ skills.

Organizations in the U.S. West were more likely than those in the Southeast to report that they expect to provide opportunities for older workers to transfer to jobs with reduced pay and responsibilities.

Benefits also are being designed with older workers in mind, with flexible scheduling at the top (59 percent) and retirement savings or pension plans with specific provisions for older workers (52 percent) the most often cited.

Other benefits designed to attract and retain older workers:

  • Long-term care benefits. Organizations and organizations with 25,000 or more employees are more likely to offer this than those with 499 or fewer employees. Multinational organizations also were more likely to offer this than U.S.-based organizations.
  • Dental benefits in phased retirement or part-time positions. Nonprofits and government agencies were more likely to offer this benefit than privately owned for-profit organizations.
  • Health care benefits in phased retirement or part-time positions. Nonprofits and government agencies were more likely to offer this benefit than privately owned for-profit organizations.
  • Retirement savings or pension plans with specific provisions for older workers. Publicly owned for-profits were more likely to offer this than privately owned for-profit organizations.
  • Flexible scheduling, such as compressed schedules, part-time work, telework and per-project basis work. U.S.-based organizations were more likely to offer this than multinational organizations.

Employers are not preparing adequately for an increasingly older workforce, noted A. Barry Rand, AARP’s CEO, in “HR and the Aging Workforce: Two CEO Points of View.” A substantial number of those surveyed, he noted, had not conducted and did not plan to conduct strategic workforce planning to analyze the impact of retirement at their organizations.

AARP has a free online workforce assessment tool for HR managers that has been used by more than 1,500 companies. It provides what Rand called “a quick snapshot” of an organization’s workforce and demographics. The tool, which SHRM is co-sponsoring, can be found at http://www.aarpworkforceassessment.org/us/index.cfm.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kathy.gurchiek@shrm.org.


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