Employers worried about boomer retirements, skills gaps

Nancy Seagraves, 61, works at her computer at an AARP Foundation office in Columbus, Ohio. Seagraves is part of the long powerful baby boomer demographic hit hard by the recession. (AP Photo/Kantele Franko) Nancy Seagraves, 61, works at her computer at an AARP Foundation office in Columbus, Ohio. Seagraves is part of the long powerful baby boomer demographic hit hard by the recession. (AP Photo/Kantele Franko)

U.S. employers are focusing more on skills training as well as employee benefits that help smooth skills gaps left when baby boomers retire, according to a joint poll by the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP.

Seventy-two percent of respondents say they expect the loss of talented older workers to be a problem or a potential problem. Among the actions respondents are taking to bridge the gap include increasing training and cross-training at 45 percent, succession planning at 38 percent, hiring retired employees as consultants or temporary workers at 30 percent, offering flexible work arrangements at 27 percent and creating part-time positions to attract older workers at 24 percent.

Respondents also say the greatest basic skills and applied skills gaps are between workers age 31 and younger compared with workers age 50 and older. In fact, 51 percent of respondents say older workers tend to have stronger writing, grammar and spelling skills in English while 52 percent of respondents say older workers display stronger professionalism and work ethics.

Although employers are taking steps to bridge the skills gaps, many respondents are still unprepared for the void that will be left when talented older workers retire. Approximately 71 percent of respondents have not perfected a strategic work force planning assessment to evaluate the impact workers 50 and older will leave on their organizations.

“Although we are encouraged to see that many organizations across the country are preparing for the challenge of baby boomer retirements, much more work needs to be done in both the short and long-term,” says SHRM President and CEO Hank Jackson. “That is why we are working together with AARP to provide organizations and their HR professionals with the tools they need to retain and engage their older, experienced talent.”

“Older workers bring unique talents and skills to the work force and are a great asset to employers,” says Jean Setzfand, AARP’s vice president for financial security. “We are pleased to be joining forces with SHRM in providing resources to assist employers in determining their work force needs.”

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