As the massive baby-boom generation prepares for retirement,
corporate America is facing a brain drain. But a new survey indicates many companies
aren’t planning to do much, if anything, to try to hang on to the older workers
they have, or attract comparably experienced replacements.
Employers agree that workers ages 50 and over come with many
advantages. In a survey of 1,913 human-resources professionals, released
last week by the Society for Human Resource Management, 77% say that older
workers have more knowledge and skills than their younger counterparts; 71% say
they are more mature and professional; 70% say they have a stronger work ethic;
63% cite them as good mentors; and 59% report that they are more reliable than
their younger counterparts.
According to the survey, just 24% of HR professionals
believe the loss of talent they face will be a potential problem, and only 4%
see it as a crisis. Of the employers surveyed, only 6% said the rising age of
the U.S. workforce has caused them to make changes to their policies and
practices. Another 7% say they have either proposed policy or management
changes or have a plan in the works to implement changes. But 36% are only
beginning to think about the issue. Half are either unaware of the challenges
they may face in recruiting and retaining older workers—or have decided no
changes in their policies are necessary.
Only half of the HR professionals who responded to the
survey say they even keep track of the percentage of their workforce that will
become eligible to retire in the next year or two. Even fewer forecast the
potential gaps in the skills of their workforces over the next six years.
In an ominous sign for older workers, 54% of companies say
they don’t actively recruit older workers. Among those who do, fully one
quarter, or 25%, say they find it either difficult or extremely difficult to
attract qualified, skilled older workers and executives. One possible
explanation: Only 3% have policies designed specifically to recruit older
workers. Of those who have these policies, many say they offer flexible work
options, such as consulting gigs and part-time hours.
Still, there are some signs that employers are waking up to
the need to hold on to some of the knowledge that’s about to walk out the door.
Among those surveyed, 54% say their organizations have implemented training
programs designed to transfer knowledge; 33% say they have mentorship programs;
and 26% have job-shadowing programs.
Moreover, the federal government—30% of whose workforce is
composed of workers ages 50 and older—is rolling out policy changes that may
serve as a model for private industry.
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