According to the US Labor Department “by 2008 the growth of the U.S. Workforce is projected to drop to near zero and remain at that level for the next 25 years. This is the consequence of a vast exodus of 79 million U.S. baby boomers who will retire from the workforce between 2010 and 2015. Hiring new employees will become more problematic as wages increase for the fewer people with the right skills."*
Pretty sobering isn't it? However, for anyone paying attention to the news for the past several years, this should not be new information—just a reaffirmation of more challenges coming our way as employers. So how do we confront it?
Provide an environment our employees want to be a part of—now and in the future.
We need to continue to create business environments our employees want to come to and participate in on a regular basis, versus a job they do not look forward to each and every day. If they dread coming to work, they certainly will stop coming when they can retire or some other company lures them away with more money. We can improve our work environment for our employees through a number of ways depending upon what our respective organization and employees need.
- Clean up the place. This sounds petty to many, but I can't tell you the number of times I have had to strongly recommend to clients that before they spend any money on consultants and other experts to fix their employees, they would increase their return on any such investment if they first cleared away the gathered clutter, bought filing cabinets, threw away broken equipment that was stockpiled in corners, organized their inventory and supplies, and hired a janitorial service to regularly clean the facility—particularly the restrooms.
- Hold all employees (including ourselves) accountable to abide by the Values of our company—day in and day out. Again, this sounds touchy-feely to some of you, but after working with various organizations for 20 years, I have seen the attitudes and focus in employees shift positively when they know and understand what standards of performance and behavior they will be held to and then are.
Provide continuous, serious training to our current employees to keep them engaged, in step with technology, and learning new aspects of our business' operations.
A recent study by Korn/Ferry showed that 51% of the executives surveyed indicated they were at least "Likely" to choose a different career field, because it provided the possibility of learning something new. Other studies are also indicating that more people nearing retirement are planning to continue to work, at least on a part-time basis, to keep engaged, learning, and current. Given this, doesn't it make sense to provide additional opportunities for our employees to learn new and challenging skills with us instead of having one of our competitors hire them away?
Again, there are no easy answers. But if we start to prepare now for the serious challenges ahead, our employees can (and will) collaborate with us to find strong solutions to the shrinking labor pool.
* “Balance Short-Term Profit with Long-Term Investment in Human Capital” Benefits & Compensation Digest (July 2006)