SHRM-AARP Poll Shows Companies Are Concerned about Boomer Retirements and Skills Gaps

April 9, 2012
A joint poll released April 9 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and AARP shows that U.S. employers are ramping up skills training and employee benefits in an effort to close the gap left by retiring Baby Boomers. And, as people remain working longer, companies are making more of an effort to retain and recruit older workers.

SHRM and AARP took note of data from the Pew Research Center indicating that 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach age 65 every day during the next two decades. In 2011, the oldest of the 77 million Baby Boomers began turning age 65-the traditional retirement age.

The loss of talented older workers is described as "a problem" or "a potential problem" for their organizations according to 72 percent of the human resources professionals polled. HR managers said that their companies have taken the following steps to prepare for the loss of talented older workers who retire:

  • Increased training and cross-training (45 percent)
  • Developed succession planning (38 percent)
  • Hired retired employees as consultants or temporary workers (30 percent)
  • Offered flexible work arrangements (27 percent)
  • Designed part-time positions to attract older workers (24 percent).

"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," said 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."

Despite the proactive steps being taken, the SHRM-AARP poll found that many U.S. organizations largely are unprepared for the brain drain and skills void that talented, retiring older workers will leave. Roughly 71 percent of those polled still have not conducted a strategic workforce planning assessment to analyze the impact of workers 50 and older who will leave their organizations.

The poll, which focused on strategic work force planning, also asked human resource professionals to identify the greatest basic skills and applied skills gaps between workers age 31 and younger compared with workers age 50 and older.

Basic skills – More than half (51 percent) of human resource managers indicated they find older workers to have stronger writing, grammar and spelling skills in English.

Applied skills – More than half (52 percent) of human resource managers said older workers exhibit stronger professionalism/work ethic.

"Older workers bring unique talents and skills to the work force, and are a great asset to employers," said Jean Setzfand, AARP's vice president for financial security.

To help U.S. businesses and organizations, the two organizations offer numerous resources through their partnership, including:

AARP's free, online Workforce Assessment Tool, which provides a snapshot of an organization’s work force and demographics and analyzes its programs to leverage the talents of its older workers. More than 3,000 organizations have utilized the tool.

The SHRM-AARP Partnership Resource Page on SHRM's Web site, which includes poll and survey findings, articles and links to the assessment tool, among others.

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