In the last two articles, we have touched on who the Baby Boomers are and what they have contributed to the economy in the last 40 years. We have also taken a look at what their mass exodus from the workforce might mean for the future of Social Security and the economy at large. However, the question remains: Who is going to take their place? Do we have enough people to replace the Baby Boomers? And if so, are they qualified?
The Skills Gap
One of the initial problems with the Baby Boomers retiring is that many of them are retiring early. This is creating huge skills and knowledge gap between them and the rising generation of workers (Monster). Manufacturers and factory-based jobs are struggling to find workers to replace the Boomers. In fact, younger workers generally have a negative view of working in factories. To recruit a new workforce, manufacturers are faced with identifiying working in the factory today isn’t comparable to the hard-labor jobs they were in years past. These positions need new skills and they have “something for everyone” (SHRM). Added to this reluctant mindset, the issues of lower immigration and lower fertility rates mean that businesses are going to have a real problem filling needed positions if they don’t make some changes (LA Times).
Why can’t Gen X cover all the bases? Pew Research reports that currently, about a third (41 million) of America’s workers come from the Baby Boomer generation, and Gen X contributes roughly 53 million workers. One would think that Gen X could simply move right into those positions when they become available. However, one major obstacle is that Gen Xers aren’t necessarily working the same way their Boomer counterparts did. Gen Xers are interested in flexible hours, work-home balance, and extended parental leave. In order to lure a Gen X worker, businesses will need to adjust their models (Monster).
How about Millennials? While Millennials contribute some 56 million bodies to the American workforce, the skills gap between them and the Baby Boomers is sizable (Pew Research). Millennials are still comparatively unexperienced and unprepared to take on what the Baby Boomers are leaving . This situation demands that businesses increase employee training and early management programs to make up the difference. Keep in mind that, like Gen X, Millennials are also interested in flexibility and transparency (Monster).
The conclusion we can come to regarding this “Great Retirement” situation is that businesses need to adjust. Perhaps they can consider rehiring some of the Baby Boomers on a consulting basis to help close the skills gap and transition other workers in. Perhaps they can look at different enticing benefits and flexible scheduling to draw in Gen Xers and Millennials. Perhaps they should take a look at their recruiting processes and adjust them in ways that make the candidate experience more engaging and positive (Corporate Screening).