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?


  1. marguerite manteau-rao on August 12, 2007 at 12:32


    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 on August 12, 2007 at 3:06

    Hel­lo Marguerite,

    Very nice to meet you!

  3. Kim on August 19, 2007 at 2:16


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

  4. Alvaro on August 19, 2007 at 10:11

    Hel­lo Kim, very glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Cameron on September 2, 2007 at 4:09

    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 on September 2, 2007 at 3:32

    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 on March 13, 2008 at 3:13

    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

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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