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Talent Management

Retiring Baby Boomers Will Cause a Giant Headache for Recruiters

Clare Hopping

Industries are feeling the strain as 'Baby Boomers’ retire in droves, and now recruiters must set their sights on a digitally adept generation.

retirement_plansAfter 33 years and 6,000 episodes, David Letterman has finally retired. A fan favorite of wide audiences over the span of three decades, many have come to see the end of Late Night as a symbol of something larger: the beginning of what TLNT calls the “Great Boomer Exodus.”

As Baby Boomers near 65 and begin to retire, industries are feeling the effects of a massive blow to their staffs. According to Jobscience, the next 20 years will see 80 million American Baby Boomers filing for retirement. The task of recruiting enough workers to fill this void has never looked tougher.

Suffering Industries: Global Skills Shortage

According to a Career Partners International survey reported on by TLNT, 1,200 executives and managers cited knowledge or experience loss and skilled worker shortages as their biggest concern.

As retiring Baby Boomers take their valuable experience with them, industries need to account for growing “basic” and “applied” skills shortages. In a Society for Human Resource Management-AARP survey of HR professionals, 51% reported they associated higher writing proficiency with older workers, and 52% alleged that older workers maintained stronger professionalism and work ethic.

An article by the Deloitte University Press reported the impact on the manufacturing industry, estimating a need for 3.4 million sector workers over the next decade (2015–2025). However, due to the shortage of workers who can “operate in a 21st-century advanced manufacturing environment,” two million manufacturing jobs are expected to remain unfilled.

The IT workforce is also feeling the sting of the impending Baby Boomer exodus. According to a study reported on by FierceCIO, 86% of US-based CIOs found difficulty in recruiting new IT workers who were equipped with the necessary skills.

How can recruiters look hopefully to the future with a skill gap looming over their heads?

Need for Transformation: Utilising Digital Skills

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“Too many IT managers expect to replace veteran workers who leave with a candidate possessing all the same skills and experiences,” says David Weldon of FierceCIO. “That is rarely practical.”

The Deloitte University Press confirms as much, stating: “A new type of worker will be required because the skill set required is changing.” Manufacturers will need talented, innovative workers able “to master new, advanced technologies,” including “fully connected computer-controlled processes, advanced robotics, and new manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing.” Where else can industries find these abilities but with the current, digitally-obsessed generation?

Companies must look towards the future - technologically flexible workers with digital skills are the answer to the replacement issue. The Economist reports that millennials, aka “digital natives,” have begun overtaking older candidates in jobs requiring a good understanding of social media.

Ajoy Mukherjee, head of human resources at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in India, understood that the company had to transform, and now boasts that 70% of the firm’s 240,000 workers are under 30. Younger workers utilised Knome, an internal social network, to design valuable new software. “There is no point in baby-boomers and Generation X saying that Gen Y should behave like us. We have to behave like them,” says Mr. Mukherjee.

In Unify, Janyce Harper cited a 2013 Ernst & Young survey that found that 87% of millennial managers had moved into their current role within the last five years. This “significant shift” in the workforce symbolises a need for transformation.

Yes, the skills shortage has caused concern worldwide, but younger workers who can quickly adapt to changing trends can serve as assets in this advanced and innovative age. Companies struggling to make up for the loss of invaluable Baby Boomers should turn their recruiting gaze to the growing pool of digitally skilled and able workers.

(Image credits: Hamza Hydri Syed/flickr, Vancouver Film School/flickr)

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.