Retiring Baby Boomers’ Impact on the Workplace
The baby boomers are reaching retirement age, meaning big changes ahead for US workplaces. A new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management points up key areas of potential difficulty.
The baby boomer generation begins turning 65 in 2011 – which means most boomer workers with retirement savings accounts will soon be eligible to withdraw their stores without penalty. The generation that’s powered the last few decades’ GDP and kept the workforce going strong will soon take its leave from the workplace. What will this mean for labor in the United States over the next several years?
Worries abound that the baby boomers’ retirement en masse may result either in worker shortages or increased rates of outsourcing abroad. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has attempted to present a reasonable and plausible forecast in its recent Future of the U.S. Labor Pool Survey Report.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall national workforce will grow by 12 percent by 2012. However, the percentage of workers aged 55 and older will increase by 49.3 percent. Many baby boomers may remain in the workforce to age 65 or beyond – but eventually, when they retire, HR professionals will be faced with the dilemma of replacing them.
According to some analyses, too many of those entering the workforce lack core competencies – a serious issue that will further complicate the staffing difficulties presented by boomers’ retiring. Many HR professionals in both the private and public sectors are slow to acknowledge a rocky road ahead. Only half of HR departments surveyed provide skills training for permanent staff on an ongoing basis or are researching how pay scales can be modified to remain competitive. This may be because only a quarter predict the flood of retiring boomers will be a problem to their organizations (though 43% say it has the potential to become a problem).
The SHRM’s survey found that almost no organizations questioned have plans to relocate; however, 17% have looked to fill jobs overseas, and another 17% intend to explore outsourcing possibilities in the near future. In part, this may be because of a perceived lack of skills in the domestic labor pool. About half of responding HR departments said they find new workers entering the workforce lack overall professionalism, written communication skills, analytical skills or business knowledge.
What can be done about these sobering concerns? The SHRM’s report uncovers a number of problem areas within the US labor force, and creative solutions will be integral to addressing fundamental obstacles before they become a crippling problem for business and industry. The retirement of the baby boomers is at a critical juncture for the US economy and the way it is handled by various sectors will go a long way towards determining the future of the nation’s competitive edge.