The demographics of the workplace are undergoing a dramatic change. Already, according to BLR.com, 11 percent of the active workforce is more than 56 years old, a percentage which will grow steadily as baby boomers age. Organizations must prepare now for the steady departure of their most experienced people in huge numbers.
On the heels of retiring boomers, Generation X (now ages 25 to 38) will provide a shrinking pool of prime-age workers. And even with the modest increase in workforce population among Generation Y (now ages 16 to 24) there simply won’t be enough young workers to fill the void that will be left. As a result, most organizations will face a serious shortage of workers. This is especially true of skilled workers; already, shortages in health care, government, education, transportation, nonprofit sectors, and manufacturing have reached near-crisis levels.
So what can your organization do to prepare for the generational shift in the workforce?
- Forestall the retirement of as many older workers as you possibly can. Whenever feasible, support semi-retirement through flexible work arrangements; flexible scheduling, telecommuting, and flexible conditions of employment. Immediately begin the process of capturing and transferring the knowledge, skill, and wisdom of older workers.
- Call upon boomers to resume their youthful role as change leaders. Now is the time to abandon hierarchical norms, sink-or-swim management, and one-size-fits-all career paths.
- Prepare Gen Xers for supervisory responsibility and leadership. Gen Xers are now entering their prime working years in short supply and full of attitude. Create new paths to leadership, redesign leadership roles, and develop the new generation of leaders for those roles.
- Accelerate the professional development of Gen Y employees. Recruit new employees at younger ages, get them up to speed faster, and trust them with important roles involving critical tasks and responsibilities.
- Be prepared to exert more pressure to get more work and better work out of fewer people. Everyone is going to have to work smarter, faster, better, and, probably, longer and harder. Highly skilled, hands-on, coaching-style management will still be the key to success.
Also, we must be aware of some recent research that warns of the side effects of multi-tasking and related efforts to increase productivity. If our employees are our most important asset, we must treat them as such. IBI