The United States is currently facing an issue it has yet to see before. The generation that was at one point the largest generation in the American workforce is now reaching the retirement age. This will have an impact on the entire workforce, but studies show this will have the greatest impact on the manufacturing industry. Over the next decade, it is predicted that over 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled. It will be difficult finding enough workers to fill those positions, but what will be even more difficult to deal with, is the loss of the job knowledge that Baby Boomers will be taking with them when they retire. To try and address this issue, we have scoured the internet for research about how to best handle this situation. Below we have listed the best five ways to respond to the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation:
- HAVE A PLAN: This one may seem a little obvious, but it is too important not to mention. A poll recently done by AARP found that nearly 50% of companies have not done any strategic planning in relation to the impact that the retirement of Baby Boomers will have on their business. First, it is important to know exactly how your company could be affected by this. As previously mentioned, a large percentage of manufacturing employees are part of the Baby Boomer generation; therefore, your company will more than likely feel the impact of this in some form or another. To understand the potential effects, perform a workplace analysis. Once you know exactly how many employees could potentially retire over the next few years, you can begin planning a response to this in a way that is tailored to your company specifically. There are a lot of “how to’s” out there, but none of those will fully understand the needs of your company like you do.
- FLEXIBLE RETIREMENT PLANS: In response to the potential mass retirement of employees, some companies are now offering more flexible retirement plans. In some cases this comes in the form of a half-retirement plan. With this retirement plan, retirees work part-time while drawing a portion of their retirement funds. This allows a company to phase out retiring employees while phasing in their replacements in a way that is not a drastic change to the organization. This proves to be a strategic way of skill transfer as well.
- JOB SHARING: Job sharing is when one job that consists of around 40 hours a week is split between two people. This can be done in any number of ways: two people work 20 hour weeks, one person works 30 hours while the other works 10 hours, each person works a certain amount of days, or maybe even splitting the day. Many companies use this method so the older employees can work less hours, but the same amount of work is still done. Others companies use this method as a way to phase in new employees that are okay with working part time while they learn from seasoned employees. Many members of the millennial generation prefer shorter and more flexible hours anyway, so it is a win-win.
- LOOK FOR CERTAIN SOFT SKILLS WHEN HIRING: There are certain soft skills that members of the Baby Boomer generation have that contribute to them being such great employees. However, it is important to remember that those skills are not exclusive to members of the Baby Boomer generation. When hiring new employees, place an emphasis on things like loyalty, competence, track records, and common sense. These qualities often lead to higher quality work and greater attention to detail.
- IMPROVE THE IMAGE OF MANUFACTURING: One major concern of large amounts of manufacturing workers retiring is not having enough young, skilled workers looking to fill those spots. Many members of younger generations have an outdated viewpoint of working in manufacturing and are quick to dismiss it as a viable career path. If this outlook can be updated to show the benefits of working in manufacturing, the workforce will strengthen and hopefully the skills gap will become smaller and smaller. One way companies can help to achieve this is to invest in STEM programs at the middle and high school levels. Another way is to participate in facility tours for students and teachers so that they can see for themselves that manufacturing is an exciting industry to enter.
Although this issue is a difficult one to navigate, we believe that with proper planning and a strategic approach, the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation can be dealt with in a manner that will guarantee a positive outcome.