The mass exodus of baby boomers Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

Currently, “baby boomers” make up one-third of the work force. Assuming most of them retire at age 65, the first set of boomers will reach this milestone in 2010. Moreover, if the U.S. economy continues to grow at a 3 percent rate per year, which has been the average since the late 1940s, the work force will need to increase by 58 million over the next 30 years to maintain the same level of productivity. If the present population trend continues, the number of workers will increase by only 23 million. That leaves a shortage of 35 million workers. Employers have to take steps now to be able to compete with other companies for the talent that will be available in the years ahead. It’s time to shift the perception and think of ways to attract and retain the coming generations.

Smart Business spoke with Mimi Braziel, vice president, accounting division, Delta Dallas to learn how to do this.

How do companies safeguard themselves from this shortage?

One way is to pay higher salaries, including bonus incentives. As with any aspect of business, employers get what they pay for.

A second way is to assess the organization’s demographics and plan accordingly. Assess how many employees will reach retirement age in the next 10 years.

Once this information is obtained, it is important to discuss the plan one to two years before they intend to leave. Pair the ‘boomer’ with a junior person to mentor so his or her legacy is passed down prior to his or her departure. Boomers have been around for a while, and their knowledge and wisdom must be captured. At times, it may be possible to retain the boomer on a consulting or a part-time/flexible basis.

Finally, look into outsourcing parts of the business to save costs and implementing systems that will streamline processes to run more efficiently and effectively with fewer employees. Constantly re-evaluate the organization and adapt as needed.

What are the primary differences between baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y?

Baby boomers did not go through the Depression, as their parents did. So, saving for a rainy day isn’t the norm for them. They have grown accustomed to a certain standard of living, and many of them will admit they have learned to live beyond their means. So assuming a large portion of them will need to work past retirement because of this, the consensus is also that they will not want to work a full load. Flexibility will be the key with them. Generation X trusts themselves more than institutions of any kind, and they recognize results versus tenure. They have to be managed accordingly rather than changed. Regarding Generation Y, employers may have to learn to deal with pink and blue hair, tattoos and a few piercings, worry less about rules, and place their focus on the quality of the work performed, rather than employees’ characteristics.

How can recruiting firms help in this process?

As the market continues to tighten, it is in employers’ best interests to partner with recruiters when they need to hire talent.

Recruiters keep up with market trends, so they can be valuable sources of information, especially when it comes to questions regarding market salary ranges. Those recruiting firms that have some tenure in their recruiting staff have an incredible network of candidates from which to select. Effective recruiters have great relationships with companies. They are best suited to match talent to cultures and opportunities that are in line with employers’ core values and desires and to advise them on how to maintain a flexible environment for employees.

What advantage does a company gain by being flexible?

Start with the premise that if employees are dependable and honest, they will do what is in the best interest of themselves and the company. Establish a friendly working environment that promotes a work-life balance. For example, establish a vacation policy that allows people to take off as much time as they need for vacation and personal matters as long as deadlines are met and their work is quality. Expand the fringe benefits program to include non-monetary, morale-building activities. Offer health club memberships, themed ‘happy hours’ on selected workdays, or cater breakfast and/or lunch at least occasionally, whatever works well for employee morale. Perks like those mentioned above present a ‘win-win’ for employees and employers. They keep employees working in the office during the workday, but they also get their work done and get out on time. More importantly, from an employer’s perspective, expanded fringe benefits help attract and retain the best qualified people.

MIMI BRAZIEL is vice president, accounting division with Delta Dallas. Reach her at (972) 788-2300 or mbraziel@deltadallas.com.