Baby Boomers Out the Door? How to Transition to the New Generation of Employees

by Steve Yakesh

What do you do when your most experienced employees walk out the door? Not only do they take their industry experience, but they take their knowledge of your particular organization as well. Based on this topic, I was recently meeting with a manufacturing client and heard a story that hit home. Let’s see if it resonates with you as well.

Our client’s manufacturing production was shut down for two days and they couldn’t figure out the cause of the problem or, more importantly, how to fix it. After countless engineers and technicians attempted to solve the issue, they called in a field services technician, who happens to be a 41-year veteran of the company. He arrived the next morning and got right to work. He walked around the manufacturing floor with a well-trained ear, placed his hand on a few different machines to feel for vibrations and, in a mere six minutes, determined what was wrong and how to fix it.

Experience is incredibly valuable, and unfortunately, it cannot be taught in a classroom. What’s even more unfortunate for today’s employers is that 70,000 baby boomers a week are turning age 65 and are now eligible to retire, according to the PEW Research Center, and subsequently take their wealth of experience with them.

These losses and eventual losses are leading us to a shortage of talent. The war for talent has definitely begun.

The shortage of talent issue doesn’t get any better in Minnesota. Currently, Minnesota has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 4.6% (as of June 2014). Additionally, Minnesota has 19 Fortune 500 companies as well as private company giants like Cargill, all courting similar talent on a daily basis.

To win the talent-acquisition battle, and most effectively replace the loss of experience, companies must pay close attention to their employment brand and recognize that they need strategies to become candidate focused again. Unless you are Google, who receives over 1 million resumes/applications a year, the battle to attract top talent becomes more intense every day.

Employers now have two separate but very similar battles on their hands:

  1. How do they replace this loss of experience?
  2. How are they going to compete and attract a shortage of talent?

Replacing the loss of experience. Losing experienced employees may temporarily have a negative impact on your bottom line, but if you can proactively plan for a retirement, it will pay off. Hire for the replacement early and have your new employee shadow the individual for three to six months. Yes, you now have two people on your payroll doing one job, but the transfer of knowledge and experience gained during this period will prove to be invaluable for your organization for years to come. Lean on your Human Resource leader(s) or if needed, bring in a consultant to help construct a process to transfer knowledge onto your new employee.

Employment Brand. Talent acquisition has become more of a sales position given the talent shortage. It’s important to provide your recruiting partners with the right sales pitch. Companies must create an “employment brand” and arm their talent acquisition teams or search partners with an accurate and compelling story.  Additionally, each candidate that expresses interest in your organization must have an exceptional experience, regardless if they are hired or not.

In our recruitment process, we often hear responses such as “I have heard some negative things about XYZ Company.” Through our due diligence, we know that what they have heard is not accurate; however, we also know that one bad experience can dynamically skew tens or hundreds of others’ perceptions of an organization; people love to share bad experiences they have had. Conversely, a great experience can help for future recruiting efforts. Companies must be aware of this and make sure they have a strategy in place to consistently communicate with candidates in a timely fashion.

What is your company doing to attract and retain the right talent?

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