Eight Steps to Prepare You for the Retirement Brain Drain
The next five years will witness a noticeable drain of expertise from the workplace as baby boomers retire en masse, leaving a void of both manpower and knowledge in their wake. You canít claim you werenít warned, since for some time the media have been touting the potential crisis this loss will create. But constructive information is much harder to find on what to do about it; so in this article we want to offset the panic by interjecting some sane practical advice on how to manage the consequences.
Your Challenge in a Nutshell
The exodus of your retirement-age people, combined with the absence of critical knowledge-transfer systems, means that a significant portion of your organizationís accumulated experience, wisdom, and organizational memory is about to walk right out the door. Therefore, to ensure a smooth transition, you need not only personnel to replace those retirees but also a systematic way of capturing, managing, and transferring the accumulated knowledge and experience of the retiring generation to their successors.
The following eight steps outline how to plan and execute a smooth succession:
1. Review ages of staff
Make a comprehensive review of the ages of your staff at all levels, from senior management right down to all operator and support positions. Donít just take inventory of how many employees are between the retirement ages of 55 to 65. Instead, review all ages. The reason is that a smooth transition of duties and responsibilities migrates back in reverse succession, so you need to know in particular how many of your staff are between the ages of 40 and 55óthe next cohort of logical replacements.
Yet at PrintLink we have noticed that many companies will possibly face a serious shortfall of people in this 40-to-55 age category. The underlying explanation may be that funding cuts in the recent past have decimated the ranks of people who had worked their way up into middle-management positions. The widespread use of departure incentives and early retirement packages in the last decade encouraged many middle managers to leave. Those with enough talent built new careers in other industries or on their own in private consultancies where they could capitalize on the knowledge they acquired. And no matter how promising are the younger employees in their 20s and 30s that remain, they may not yet have acquired the necessary skills or the organizational knowledge and experience to fill your pending vacancies effectively. Additionally, a common complaint we hear from clients is that not all workers have an appropriate attitude of respect and receptivity when it comes to learning the ropes from the older generation. You therefore need a clear idea which staff within your company you can realistically expect to move up and which ones you must recruit and hire externally to replace.
2. Learn the plans of staff nearing retirement
Start to compile your succession plan by proactively asking your near-retirees to disclose what their own plan is. Considering the work ethic that prevails among many baby boomers, donít be surprised if some will not want to retire at all. Some may want to work reduced hours, some may want to switch to contract versus permanent full-time jobs, while others will just want to retire free and clear. Do your best to ensure each personís honest response by assuring them all individually that they are not at risk of being replaced ahead of their anticipated retirement date. Make it clear you are asking about their intentions just because you want to have a succession plan in place. With that said, generally people nearing retirement will welcome the opportunity to leave behind a professional legacy, since they no longer need to be afraid that, by giving the next generation all their accumulated knowledge, they will work themselves out of a job.
Conversely, though, donít assume that retirees willing to coach their successors will be sitting around waiting for you. In fact, agencies that find temporary or part-time situations for retired workers say that many seniors donít want just any job but one that fulfills a personal passion; for instance, after retirement, a big-business executive with a passion for gardening specified that he wanted seasonal employment in a garden shop. He now works summers at the Home Depotís garden centre.
3. Mind the gaps
Determine exactly when and where the gaps in expertise and skill sets will arise from retirements. They may fall in areas that you will decide to phase out of your business, or they may not. In either case, you need to devise and follow a plan to transition the workflow seamlessly.
4. Plan and execute an internal transfer of essential knowledge and skills
Again, work with your near-retirees to devise a plan to train and nurture others who are already in your organization and identify hiring needs. Ask the near-retirees to help document your companyís history, experience, lessons learned, and the present knowledge and skills required to keep it running from their perspective. Then set up a methodical internal knowledge-transfer and mentoring system, with a timetable specifying what, when, and who provides the necessary action. For outgoing staff who are interested, implement such flexible options as more gradual retirement or retaining those over 65 years of age on a part-time basis to allow for the transfer of important skills and knowledge. Keep in mind that, in the impending labor shortage associated with the retirement boom, your companyís provision of training budgets and career-development opportunities will prove to be an asset in recruiting and retaining future employees.
5. Develop a training matrix and an implementation plan
In additional to internally developed training and mentoring initiatives, make an additional list of external training and education programs that relate to your business. Identify which ones are required for specific roles within your company. Contrast this wish list with the current training and education levels of your existing personnel. Then fill in the gaps by arranging to have existing staff schooled or by recruiting and hiring new staff with the appropriate training and/or education.
6. Decrease rotations at the top
Itís a sound idea to implement rotational programs for managers to ensure they get exposed to different departments in the company. But these shifts can prove counterproductive, when for purposes of mentoring up-and-coming successors, more stable leadership is desirable. For this reason, some experts actually specify that during retirement transitions you may want to have your senior managers and executives stay in their jobs for at least five years, rather than the two or three years that now constitutes the norm..
7. Seek government support
Look for government financial assistance for staff-training initiatives. In addition, the Government of Canada supports industry-based Sector Council Programs to address the need for skilled training in a number of industries, including printing.
8. Partner with a staffing agency
Hiring Managers can make huge strides toward solving their pending retirement brain drain by forging immediate partnerships with industry-specific staffing agencies like PrintLink. If you tell us what skills or foundation backgrounds you will need and your timing to replace retiring employees, we will assist you in securing the closest possible match for your requirements. We already have standing arrangements with many of our clients to contact them if a candidate with a personal and professional profile that fits their requirements becomes available.
But time is of the essence. The sooner you call us, the better our chances of coming up with the right replacements in time for your outgoing baby boomersí departures. Because above all, long-term planning is what you need to do to survive the demographic shift as large numbers of the workforce head into retirement.