How Organizations Are Harnessing The Wisdom Of Baby Boomers To Combat Skills Shortages

The baby boomer generation is defined by Pew Research Center as people born between 1946 and 1964. This population has given most western economies a pronounced economic premium since the 1970s. A recent report from Bain’s Macro Trends group suggests that the premium is beginning to fade out, however, as growing numbers of boomers enter retirement.

There has been a lot of discussion around the impact of this in a societal context, whether regarding the shifting “dependency ratio” or the rise in healthcare expenditure as large numbers enter into retirement, but the transition of the boomer generation is also likely to have a profound impact upon our organizations.

Foremost among these trends is the skills shortage that is holding back organizations in a number of areas, not least their attempts at digital transformation. For instance, a recent study by Future Workplace and The Learning House revealed the considerable number of roles that currently sit unfilled due to shortages in the labor market.

Stemming the brain drain

So we have a situation where organizations are complaining of a skills shortage, while at the same time, large numbers of baby boomers are heading into retirement, taking their skills, experience and wisdom with them. A recent study from the University of California, Santa Barbara highlighted how damaging this could be. It found that there are two distinct forms of intelligence: fluid intelligence, which is our ability to think logically and process information; and crystallized intelligence, which is gained through accumulated knowledge and experience.  The researchers found that increases in crystallized intelligence were approximately twice as valuable as increases in fluid intelligence.

Some organizations are attempting to retain access to this knowledge and experience by setting up alumni networks. One of the most well-known alumni networks is YourEncore, which was set up in 2003 by Procter & Gamble and Eli Lilly to enable them to tap into the wisdom of older employees who still wanted to offer their experience without working full-time hours.

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