Employment Brain Drain On the Way! What Will You Do?

With 40 percent of the workforce nearing retirement, and too few workers in the next generation to replace them, companies need innovative solutions in hiring and retention. The good news: Such solutions are being developed.

By the end of this decade, two sets of facts will radically shape your company’s employment picture:

First, by 2010, more than 64 million baby boomers will be at or close to retirement age. That’s 40 percent of the workforce. How would your company be affected if four of every 10 employees, probably including your most experienced workers and your senior managers, simply weren’t there?

Second, the group now in their 30s and 40s that will replace those retirees is about 10 percent smaller than the workforce it will replace.

Bottom line: The coming “brain drain” is a classic employment squeeze play. To make it through, you’re going to have to find ways to hold on to your senior people longer, grab a larger share of the talented younger group than your competitors, or do both. Fortunately, HR professionals are developing solutions at both ends of the spectrum.

Keeping Senior Workers On

To hold onto their older workers, companies are thinking beyond traditional higher salaries and retention bonuses and beginning to recognize the concept of “semi-retirement.” This allow senior workers to set work schedules that permit some of the freedoms of retirement while keeping the pay and benefits of employment.

One Florida firm, TriQuint Semiconductor, has instituted such a plan. “There’s a mutual benefit,” says Sunder Gopani, a 25-year veteran with the company. “They retain my expertise and I want a schedule that gives me time to travel.”

The ultimate extension of this principle— 6 months on the job, 6 months off—has also been discussed, possibly with the employee working while away, e-mailing reports and evaluating analyses, even while sipping latte by the beach.

Recruiting Younger Workers

Meanwhile, employers have ramped up their recruitment efforts among younger workers, seeking candidates where they congregate, on Internet employment and professional sites and through the electronic classified ad service on the net, Craigslist.

When candidates are found, the lures put forward are unique to their generation. “Baby boomers wanted a big office, big title and a big paycheck,” says Donna Long, an employment advisor, “A big paycheck may not be enough for [the next generation].”

Younger candidates seek employment satisfaction and work-life balance as much as they do superior compensation, the experts say, and in any case, they cannot be expected to stay on a job all their working lives. Some projections are that the typical younger worker will have 20 jobs before he or she retires.

“They view a job as just that and not a career,” says Dr. Larry Rosen, an author who’s written on technology and the generation it spawned. “Either the job is shaped in a way that utilizes their expertise, or they won’t stick around.”

But for employers troubled by that notion, Jim Lanzalotto of the Philadelphia outsourcing firm, Yoh Services, has some good news. There’s a good chance that past employees who leave may be coming back.

“We have more ‘boomerang employees’ than ever,” Landalotto says. And when they come back, “they know the culture and the company, and [also] have a whole different perspective. They might be a real asset.”

Is your company concerned with the ‘brain drain’? If so, what are you doing about it? Use the Share Your Comments button and let us know your thoughts.