How to Stop the Baby Boomer Brain Drain

Australia is about to enter an age unparalleled in our history: the age of the great retirement. Our largest generation ever, the Baby Boomers, will soon exit the workforce forever, leaving 4 million vacant positions in their wake and taking an enormous amount of corporate knowledge, wisdom, and expertise with them. 

And with this exit could come devastating consequences. 

From lost technical knowledge, to unfillable vacancies, HR Managers and businesses at large could have an extremely challenging few years if they don’t act now to stop the Baby Boomer brain drain. And according to the latest research by Robert Half, it’s something that a lot of managers are worried about: 86% of all hiring managers are deeply concerned that departing Baby Boomers will worsen their skills shortage.

So what tools do HR Managers have to effectively transfer decades of corporate knowledge, while also giving Baby Boomers the best possible transition to retirement? Here are four of the most effective tools you can put in place: 

1. Job Sharing

If you’ve ever considered job-sharing in your organisation, now is the time to do it. Job-shares not only help with knowledge transfer, but can help lift engagement for those involved. 

By definition, a job-share is a full-time job split between two people, but what that split looks like can differ depending on the business. For example, a popular job-share arrangement is where two people work three days a week each, and have a crossover day in the office for collaboration. 

By enabling a soon-to-be retiree job share with someone else in the business, you’re ensuring that their wisdom and experience are, over time, transferred to someone else and that when they retire, their job-sharer is adequately trained to perform their job. A job-share can also be a great opportunity for the person who shares the job – they might be a young person who wants to experience a different role, or potentially a return-to-work parent who is looking for part-time work. 

Given that the job-sharer will effectively be doing the job for half of the week during the arrangement, the goal of the job-share is to have them fully trained once the soon-to-be-retiree retires. 

2. Formal mentoring programs 

If job-sharing isn’t an option within your organisation, the next best knowledge transfer mechanism is a formal mentoring program. 

Under a formal mentoring program, the soon-to-be-retiree participates in a structured program, which can include setting goals and activities, and participating in regular meetings with their mentee(s). 

Putting the formal structure around the program means that particular goals can be set (and then met) around knowledge transfer, which in turn means that all essential corporate knowledge will be captured, even if the mentee(s) being mentored are not 100% ready for the senior role once the soon-to-be-retiree retires. 

3. Informal mentoring programs 

Informal mentoring programs are another effective way of transferring knowledge, although they may not be as successful as formal mentoring programs. 

With informal mentoring programs, a soon-to-be-retiree is partnered with someone else in the organisation, their ‘mentee.’ Depending on the type of role, the mentee can then spend anything from a few hours a week, to months at a time, job shadowing the soon-to-be-retiree and understanding how they work. 

Informal mentoring programs can be successful, but it largely depends on the individuals involved and how much time they can spend together. As informal mentoring programs often don’t have strict rules, structures and goals like formal mentoring programs, it can be difficult to assess their success. Nonetheless, the goal of information mentoring programs is to transfer corporate knowledge and train a replacement for a soon-to-be-retiree. 

4. Training programs 

Training programs, either online or in-person, can be effective for some skills that might need to be transferred from soon-to-be-retirees to others within the business. However, they’re unlikely to act as a substitute for more substantial, longer programs simply because Baby Boomers have in excess of 40 years experience and knowledge to share. 

If training programs are your only option, though, ensure that soon-to-be-retirees have the resources they need to succeed. For example, if they’re tasked with creating a training program, ensure they have the time required to do so, plus access to a learning designer and some administration assistance so they’re able to plan and create their course.

Time to plan, not panic 

The sheer volume of exiting Baby Boomers presents many challenges for HR. But these challenges only seem insurmountable if you’re unprepared. 

To step the tide of Baby Boomer brain drain, ensure that you take the time to plan and implement job shares, mentoring programs and training programs for all of your critical skills. 

Career Money Life has partnered with Changing Gears to help you manage your people’s transition to retirement. Our program helps your people discover their individual interests and passions and pursue them, while at the same time giving them access to all of the services they’ll need to phase-in their retirement. We remove fear and doubt – giving your boomers the answers to ‘what’s next’ and helping them navigate their changing life stage. 

Learn more about how we can help your business and your people retire better here.

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