A recent article by Dan Ovsey (The Baby Boomer paradox: Can delaying retirement hurt productivity?) Reviews the thoughts of several Canadian business, political and consulting leaders. Several key points are raised:
- Boomers are not leaving the workforce in droves due to three key reasons, don’t want to, can’t afford to, and employers are doing more to retain them. Employers are becoming more and more interested in retaining boomers because of their operational knowhow.
- Many boomers still stay in the workforce via contracting and consultant like arrangements.
- The impact of many boomers staying in the employment like workforce is on millennials. They have fewer opportunities to gain entry into employment like roles. Hence., many of these are are seeking gainful work through entrepreneurial like avenues.
- The impact on organizational productivity is likely negative given the number of boomers who stay in the workforce due to economic needs. Their motivation is not the same as those who work because they want to. Another source of impact on national productivity is the view that small firms are not as productive as larger ones (they don’ invest in R&D).
- For the longer term, it is the view of many leaders that we need to achieve national increases in productivity to reach levels we experienced in the 1960s’.
- The challenge will be to ensure we hold on to the right boomers for the right length of time in the right ways so we can best make use of them.
I recommend this article as it portrays important views that are common amongst business, political and talent management leaders.
I have some some views, particularly around where we can most effectively respond to the demographic facts outlined in the article (mainly in the first four points above). I wholeheartedly agree with the final point above.
Rethink why we retain boomers for their knowledge. No issue in this strategy in the short run. In the longer run, need to come to grips with the fact that this strategy doesn’t change your risk exposure to critical knowledge attrition. In fact it may even make the risk exposure worse. The systematic solution is to make retention of this knowledge unnecessary.
Necessary operational excellence is rooted in our very business models or modes of operating. Retaining critical skills while we change how we operate is the optimal solution. It permits us to bring new talent in, it should result in an even more productive organization, and, reduce our exposure to undesired talent supply/demand issues.
Rethink performance management. Be critical in our thinking on who is really contributing in our workplace and be creative in dealing with those areas that are being as productive as we need them to be. Am I suggesting that we engage in wholesale layoffs? No. I am suggesting creating choices that benefit both parties.
Rethink performance. This is examining how people best perform and arranging how you are organized around them to obtain these outcomes. I will give a dark example out of my past work: field management were having difficulties in fulfilling their key responsibilities in a couple of critical areas. I was asked to advise how to determine how many extra field managers were going to be necessary to improve in these concerned operational areas. They had a “soft number” in mind, so I was as much being asked to confirm it. When I looked how these managers spent their time (especially in the first half of their shifts) I determined that considerable productivity was lost because the very people who hired me were being obtrusive on these field managers time. I gently suggested that we reconsider how we interact with the field managers (to obviously meet our legitimate needs) so that they can better use their time to more fully deal with their critical responsibilities. My learning: much productivity is lost because of middle and senior managers behaviours towards their reports. And this has nothing to do with whether targeting improved leadership skills per se (as we would typically list in OD).