In a 2015 survey, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that approximately one-third of employers were concerned that pending retirements would become a problem for their organizations. Why? Because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 percent of the workforce will be eligible for retirement in the coming years.
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This news couldn't come at a worse time for many employers, a number of which are still feeling the pains of persistent skills gaps across industries. In healthcare, for example, organizations face the retirement of an estimated 525,000 nurses over the next few years. Couple that with the fact that it's already difficult enough to find healthcare talent, and organizations in this space will need intelligent healthcare workforce solutions if they are to make it through this perfect storm of challenges.
Employers in numerous other industries will face similar hiring challenges, and while organizations are aware of the problem, few are adequately prepared to respond. Massive retirement could mean the loss of legacy information, productivity, customer relationships, and more.
The good news, though, is that with proper planning, your organization can use intelligent workforce solutions to prepare for and ultimately survive the looming retirement waves.
Intelligent Workforce Solutions to the Rescue
When retirement surges, it will already be too late for employers to properly prepare. Employers need to be ready before it begins.
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If they have not yet done so, management should meet to make some critical decisions. Here are a few preparations they should consider:
1. Engaging Contingent Workers
When employees begin to retire, there may not be enough talented candidates available on the market with the necessary skills to replace people who had years of experience.
According to the same SHRM survey cited above, only one-fifth of employers have assessed the potential impact the skills gap could have upon replacing retiring employees. This is troubling because a lack of available candidates could significantly affect an organization's productivity and bottom line.
However, if employers begin to break vacant roles down into the skill sets and competencies they require, they may be able to split formerly single roles into multiple projects that can be completed by multiple workers through the gig economy.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 40.4 percent of U.S. workers are now engaged in contingent work (e.g., freelance work, part-time work, temp work, etc.). A large pool of flexible workers exists from which employers can pull the talent they need to accomplish critical projects and reduce productivity loss.
Furthermore, employers can "try out" contingent workers before taking them on as full-timers, which takes the stress off of talent acquisition and reduces the likelihood of making bad hires out of haste.
To maximize the value they draw from contingent labor, employers should investigate whether their employees – particularly those in talent acquisition and HR – have the skills they need to engage and manage these workers. Depending upon the level of in-house expertise, employers may want to outsource the engagement and management of contingent workers altogether to ensure sound risk mitigation strategies and cost savings.
2. Introducing Mentorship and Knowledge-Transfer Programs
Employers facing retirement waves are incredibly concerned about losing legacy knowledge. What happens to specialized knowledge if someone retires without passing it along? The answer is that it could literally walk out the door with the retiring employee.
To ensure this knowledge is not lost forever, employers can introduce intelligent workforce solutions, such as programs intended to foster mentorship and transfer knowledge. These programs can be supported by documentation of systems and processes, but should intimately involve the team members working in each department.
Mentorship and knowledge-transfer programs can benefit both the employer and the employees. Younger workers can gain historical knowledge, exposure to advanced skills, guidance, and more. Consider which teams' input will be needed to ensure effectiveness and integrate these intelligent workforce solutions into the organizational culture.
3. Investing in Workforce Development and On-the-Job Training
Ever since the Great Recession, on-the-job training and workforce development have suffered. During the recession, many employers sought to reduce overhead costs by doing away with these kinds of programs, and few organizations returned their programs to pre-recession levels once the economy began recovering. According to a 2011 Accenture study, only one-fifth of employees receive on-the-job training.
Instead of developing employees from within, more employers are seeking to hire talented candidates from the outside. What these employers overlook, though, is that fact that the invaluable retiring workers they need to replace were shaped by cultures of training and development. By reintroducing these programs, employers will be able to ensure their new and existing employees gain access to knowledge about not only the job, but also the company, its clients, and more. Organizations will be able to build skilled workforces that are more resilient in the face of future retirement waves.
4. Broadening Client Sales and Support Teams
Often, client relationships are managed by more senior employees. Should one of them retire, an intimate client relationship can suffer. This could lead clients to seek out alternative solutions, partners, or vendors.
To preserve these relationships, employers can broaden their client support and sales teams. This ensures that clients are familiar with multiple team members and will feel well-taken care of, even when their primary contacts leave. Should the senior employee retire, this client relationship will not be lost, because it will be a layered relationship with the team itself.
Before you watch your tenured workers walk out the door with their special knowledge, skills, and relationships, investigate intelligent workforce solutions that will help you navigate the looming retirement waves.
Catherine Hess is the marketing manager for RightSourcing.