There was a time when businesses were able to talk openly about things like retirement. When someone was hired, part of the conversation was about loyalty, retirement planning and the pensions that would be offered to employees. As the baby boomers have begun to approach retirement, however, that dialogue is changing.
Most companies no longer offer a pension program—and many that once did have found that, because of rising healthcare and operational costs, they have to go back on the pension plans that were promised to employees. Of course, this is only one challenge that many businesses are being forced to confront as they deal with an aging workforce.
Loyalty, it seems with younger generations, is something that many businesses can no longer count on. Unlike the baby boomer generation before them, younger workers don’t decide on a career and then settle into it. Instead, employees stay within a position for a few months to a year before asking for a transfer to another department. After a few years, many companies see a complete turnover in a particular department, as workers conclude that they are looking for a position that is somehow more interesting, more exciting or just plain different from what they’ve been doing.
Therefore, many companies are finding that, because of this mass exodus of baby boomers from the workforce, there are a number of challenges that just weren’t there before.
Though the issue of staffing has already been touched on, it’s significant enough to revisit. As more and more boomers leave the workforce, more companies are realizing challenges on a number of levels.
First, the application pool seems to be a bit shallower. When a staff member has been on board for ten, twenty or thirty years, a company knew that this person understood the job inside and out. Therefore, some businesses didn’t always place a strong emphasis on embracing technology or otherwise updating their systems.
As an exodus of retiring boomers begins in these companies, management may find itself with a system that seems obsolete to many of the candidates who have applied for a given position. In addition to training new staff, there is often a need to rethink the way that business is done—something that’s difficult for many companies.
Changing systems is never particularly easy in an established business. Unlike their grown children, many baby boomers are still trying to figure out how to program their cell phones and computers— yet the applicant pool available to most companies is comprised of those who have embraced technological innovations.
As aging employees begin to leave a company, more and more of these younger workers get a firsthand look at the technologies that the business has embraced. In many cases, they have suggested improvements that can be made simply by installing new software or marketing the business online. And technology does not merely affect business on the surface; it will continue to alter the very ways in which business is done.
Just as business will be done differently as boomers begin to move into retirement, the products and services that many companies offer will see some level of change as well. A business that was started by a baby boomer to offer a product to his or her peers may not offer the same product now that the population is aging.
Many businesses, therefore, are going to find that they have younger workers marketing a product or service that has been designed to benefit an older generation. There may be communication problems—young staff members may have trouble explaining the benefits of a product because they cannot see themselves using it. On the other side, recent retirees may not trust that a younger person can really understand their needs.
This, in a way, brings us back once again to staffing. In order to solve the problems presented by a mass exodus of baby boomers, businesses need to find a way to broaden their perspectives. Companies need to be prepared for their products or services to change, for the way they do business to change and for their staffing choices to reflect a diverse market.
In order for businesses to continue to thrive, they will need to adapt, recognizing value and welcoming the contributions of younger and older workers alike. In order to communicate, they will need to find the right balance of appealing to tradition and modern sensibilities—both with their products and services and with the ways in which those items are marketed to consumers.
By embracing a more modern approach, businesses will be in a better position to tackle the problems that arise when there is a generational exodus from the workforce. By thinking ahead and identifying which challenges may arise for them, companies can strategize and prevent problems from arising even before the baby boomers on staff decide to move on to whatever life has planned for them. TPW