Experts who examine labor market dynamics believe the retirement of Baby Boomers is setting up to be the biggest corporate brain drain of all time. Employees born between the years 1946 and 1964 represented one of the largest population swells in history. Now many have already retired, or at least are getting closer to doing so.
How do you counteract the impact of 3.6 million Boomers leaving the workforce annually? There are a range of responses, of course, but the simplest and most sensible is this: get the Boomers you have in place now to stay longer; something that may be easier to do than most companies realize.
Data shows that baby Boomers are indeed open to staying employed longer and that older employees are more active in the workplace now than ever before. At the beginning of the millennium, for example, only 13% of Americans age 65 or older held any type of job (either full or part time). Now the number is closer to 19%. That means that 9 million retirement-eligible Baby Boomers are still working and that number is growing everyday. By 2025, one out of every three people age 65+ will still be employed.
Most will stay because they need the money, but not all decisions are driven by economic concerns. Many choose to continue working because they want to, not because they have to. Their jobs still satisfy them. In fact, of all the employees who have put off retirement, 44% say they still enjoying their work. They enjoy what they do and they like the people they interact with while they are doing it.
What can you do to keep your fair share? Studies show that businesses that make Boomers feel like valued members of the team will keep more of them longer. In that regard, your recognition program can play a huge role. Specifically it can help you do the following:
1/ Show Baby Boomers the respect they crave.
Older employees are just like any other employee in one regard: they need to feel appreciated. They want to be told that they do their work well and that their contributions matter. When you recognize a Boomer you are showing them (and everyone else) that they are indeed valuable members of the team and that you respect their contributions. The more you do this, the more likely they will continue to think of your work environment as the place to be.
Don’t do this once or twice. Remember retirement age Boomers have options. If they choose to continue working, they will be looking to do so where they feel respected. Not only do you need to recognize their contributions but you should also reinforce that you value them. Position the firm as a symbiotic part of their lives, a place where they continue to make a meaningful impact. Do so on a consistent basis and their work with you will take on a deeper and more emotional dimension.
2/ Tap into their expertise.
Boomers are your most senior and seasoned employees. You should be tapping into their expertise. For example, you can recognize them when they guide younger employees. Millennials, in particular, are eager to learn and say they want more coaching. Recognize Boomers who pass on their skills to less experienced employees. Using your recognition program you can acknowledge a Boomer’s mentoring contributions as “leadership in action.” That will flatter them, of course, but there is another benefit to mentoring. During the exchange you will also be exposing your most senior players to a fresh perspective—value tools and techniques that they may find interesting and useful as well.