written by: Tara Duggan•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 3/16/2011
Preparing for baby boomers leaving the workforce typically involves capturing their knowledge, ensuring knowledge transfer and establishing programs to hire or retain older workers to avoid labor shortages.
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As baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1966, reach age 65 and begin to retire, companies must prepare for these people leaving the workforce. By establishing mechanisms to collect written records of procedures and product troubleshooting steps in knowledge repositories, companies can maintain business continuity even as large numbers of workers leave the workforce. Additionally, by providing flexible work schedules and offering other incentives, such as tuition assistance for continuing education, employers can entice workers to remain on the job, particularly when they possess critical skills. Workers in physically demanding jobs can transition to less hazardous roles, such as training and personnel development. Managing the workforce of the 21st century involves planning and coordination to meet the needs of baby boomers and younger workers alike.
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Enabling Knowledge Retention
Tacit knowledge, expertise and skills gained by education or experience, can be difficult to record by written or verbal explanations. Training professionals preparing for baby boomers leaving the workforce usually interview, observe or receive coaching from seasoned experts. These activities ensure the transfer tacit knowledge as well as implicit knowledge, such as memories or perceptions. Explicit knowledge, while more easily documented in written or audio form, still typically requires a comprehensive framework to be useful. By creating a database and categorizing the contents so the items can be easily retrieved when needed, retiring workers transfer their collective knowledge of policies and procedures to younger workers. Documents and multimedia content, such as audio, video and images, create a lasting record of company intellectual property.
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Promoting Financial Literacy Training
As baby boomers leave the workforce, they need to be prepared for financing their retirement. With improved medical care and healthier life styles, they can usually expect to live longer than their parents. For example, using the resources provided by the MyMoney.gov website, the U.S. government’s website for financial education, employers help their staff make decisions about retirement planning. By helping workers calculate income, savings required and potential expenses, employers enable their workers to make decisions about remaining on the job or retiring. By educating workers on the limits associated with working while receiving Social Security retirement benefits, companies can retain valuable workers who want to continue contributing to the company’s profitability and growth.
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Providing Incentives to Older Workers
To avoid disruptions to business activities, companies need to devise strategies for retaining older, highly-skilled workers needed to maintain legacy systems. The current workplace requires an increasingly complex set of skills that requires constant updating. Because baby boomers will require increased health and social services, job shortages in that industry are expected to rise. To combat this problem, employers can offer flexible work schedules, training, and other benefits for retirement.
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Preparing for baby boomers leaving the workforce involves ensuring the knowledge they have acquired over their employment is recorded and categorized for younger workers. It also includes making adjustments in work schedules and benefits to accommodate the needs of aging workers that employers want to retain so they can coach and mentor younger, less experienced workers. Workers of all ages can collaborate on projects to exchange knowledge, learn new techniques and explore advances in technology to ensure a company’s continued success and competitive edge.
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Reference and Image Credit
Long, David W.. Lost knowledge confronting the threat of an aging workforce. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2004.