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Training the Aging Workforce

Alice Snell kindly brings to our attention her nice post, Baby Boomers: The Beat Goes On, commenting on several reports and articles on the aging workforce challenge. 

This is a very important topic, and directly related to what we are doing. Let me provide an overview with these 10 points. First, some context:

1) The Conference Board published a good report in 2005 titled America’s Aging Workforce Posing New Opportunities and Challenges. Quotes:

  • “Some 64 million baby boomers (over 40 percent of the U.S. labor force) are poised to retire in large numbers by the end of this decade. In industries already facing labor and skills shortages, forward-thinking companies are recruiting, retaining, and developing flexible work-time arrangements and/or phased retirement plans for these workers (55 years of age or older), many of whom have skills that are difficult to replace. Such actions are putting these companies ahead of competitors who view the aging workforce largely as a burden putting strains on pension plans and healthcare costs.”
  • “More older workers want to remain in their jobs for both personal fulfillment and financial reasons. In a related forthcoming study from The Conference Board, more than half (55 percent) of older employees surveyed said they were not planning to retire because they find their jobs interesting. Significantly, 74 percent also cited not having sufficient financial resources as a reason they were continuing to work, and 60 percent cited the need for medical benefits.”

Not only in the US: the largest single group within the UK workforce in 2006 was comprised of people between 45 and 59.

2) Some consulting companies like Accenture seem to be betting that the solution will be to improve technology for knowledge transfer and train younger employees as soon as possible (interview notes of the conversation between Accenture’s CEO Bill Green and William J. Holstein, editor in chief of Chief Executive magazine.)

3) And the market for Talent Management and Succession Planning solutions has been growing steadily, and has more room to grow: The Bottleneck – A Lack of Succession Planning in HR. 

Now, Alice mentions a few interesting reports and articles

4) Preparing for an Aging Workforce: A Focus on New York Businesses, a survey of 400 HR managers sponsored by AARP. One interesting tidbit I found in the report: when asked about “Strategies to help employees work past traditional retirement age”, the top answer was “Training to Upgrade Skills (out of 8 such as “easing into the retirement” or “working part-time”).

5) The Talent-Shortage Myth, by Workforce Management editor John Hollon, where he tries to debunk the myth of a massive, simultaneous worker shortage, highlighting that many baby boomers will want to remain in the workforce for many more years.

6) She ends up asking “Does your organization have—or need—a baby boomer exit strategy?”

My 2 cents

7) Companies need a comprehensive strategy, more than a baby boomer “exit” strategy: hiring and training younger employees, ensure knowledge transfer, manage talent and sucession planning, AND training baby boomers who want to stay. I tend to agree with John Hollon that there won’t be a massive shortage. Many baby boomers will want to, and need to, keep working. But it will be important for sectors like government, communications, energy, utilities, to manage their worforce of people over 50 and ensure flexible and appropriate workplace arrangements, and start planning now for those arrangements.

8) An important component of that strategy, that seems to be overlooked so far, is how to help those Employees to ensure maximum Productivity and Health. We have been discussing the growing research behind brain fitness and cognitive training and the increasing number of tools and potential accomodations. Won’t companies think about them as part of their Corporate Training, Wellness and Talent Management initiatives? doesn’t it make sense to try to find the best match between talent and job profile, and won’t an older employee with better attention span, processing speed, memory and executive functions be in a better position to keep adding value, to be more healthy and productive?

9) Which is why we have started to help educate companies and professionals with articles such as Ten Important Truths About Aging: How we age is at least partially under our control, By Elkhonon Goldberg and Alvaro Fernandez, published in The Complete Lawyer.

10) At a glance, those Ten Truths are: 

So, let me ask, does your organization have—or need—a comprehensive baby boomer strategy? does that strategy include a tailored Training, Wellness and Talent Management component? and does the Talent Management part include employees over 50?

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24 Responses

  1. Alvaro,

    Thanks for the lovely comment on my blog. Which led me to your blog!

    I am very impressed with your work. And I agree with your premise, that staying young, is as much a matter of exercising our body, as, and even more importantly, keeping our brain supple and stimulated. Creativity is a wonderful gift to be cultivated and nurtured all along. So is meditation.


  2. Alvaro says:

    Hello Marguerite,

    Very nice to meet you!

  3. Kim says:


    The article for The Complete Lawyer was fantastic! As someone who never intends to retire, it was very encouraging!

  4. Alvaro says:

    Hello Kim, very glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Cameron says:

    Physical health is going to be a big problem. Many boomers who say they will work may not be able to although it is true that a high percentage may have to work for financial reasons. I for one will leave the employee workforce to work for myself. Yes, I am one of the oldest boomers.

  6. Alvaro says:

    Hello Cameron,

    Thanks for your post.

    Both physical and brain health are important, and what we see more and more often is people who are physically fine but cognitively slower than they used to, which affects their productivity and ability to deal with changes. So we should deal with both, and most companies still don’t focus on the cognitive aspect.

    Finding self-employment opportunities is a great route, but we also expect (and are starting to see) companies making changes to retain some employees longer than used to be the case.

    Have you heard of Civic Ventures?

  7. Steve Little says:

    I realize I am a little late to this party, but it seems to me that all of this talk about corporate responsibilities as they relate to retiring boomers misses the point entirely.

    It is the individual ‘boomer’ who is responsible for their experience in every dimension of life.

    At Champion Success Coaching, we help boomers approaching retirement to connect with what they really want their life experience to be for the 20 to 40 years they will have post retirement, and then help them create it…regardless of retirement planning and HR retention strategies.

    It is my considered opinion that the economic implications of a massive infusion of new yet mature entrepreneurial energy will not only result in a great boom for our ecomony, but will self-organize into whatever demographic strata are appropriate.

    People who want to stay on board with the corporate world, will.

    People who want to r&r in sun city, will.

    People who want to engage in passionate pursuit of some sort, will.

    In all cases, it is clear that the faculty afforded a good wellness program which includes brain wellness is desirable.

    Steve Little

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