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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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