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Solve the Skills Gap Problem

Encourage boomers to stay beyond “retirement” and, when possible, recruit 50-plus workers

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To solve the skills gap problem, persuade “retiring” boomers to stay and make every effort to recruit 50-plus workers for open positions.

Do you find that many of the candidates applying for open positions in your organization lack the business knowledge, interpersonal skills or overall professionalism needed for the jobs? You’re not alone.

A skills gap haunts businesses large and small across the country. One reason? Ten thousand boomers become eligible to retire every day. They take with them critical knowledge, soft skills and a depth of understanding of the organization that can’t be transferred to new hires in one easy step. Here’s the good news: Though retiring boomers are one reason for the skills gap, they could also form the cornerstone of your solution.

The skills gap is costly. According to a survey conducted for careerbuilder.com, an employer loses more than $14,000 for every job that’s open for three or more months. The report suggests that these costs add up quickly. They also have broader implications for business performance. For example, surveyed employers say they lose productivity, see higher turnover and lower morale due to heavier workloads, and experience dips in customer service, delayed delivery times and more.

See also: The surprising truth about older workers

As employers grapple with all of this, many are looking at ways to hold on to mature workers. As pointed out during the June 2014 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation’s Executive Roundtable on “The Aging Workforce”:

'Older workers’ institutional knowledge, highly developed skills — especially soft skills — and ability to see the big picture make them a valuable asset for any organization. Maximizing those skills, remaining sensitive to older workers’ personal and family demands, and taking into account younger workers’ desire to ascend within an organization will be crucial tasks for HR professionals in the years ahead.'

During the roundtable, one participant put it bluntly by asking, “Do we have the bench strength when the baby boomers go?”

If organizations plan well, perhaps the boomers don’t necessarily have to go — at least not all at once. Here are some tips you can use to encourage boomers to work beyond retirement and transfer their knowledge over time. And if you aren’t already, remember to include older workers in your recruiting efforts.

1. Phased retirement

While flexible work arrangements are a solid HR practice for many businesses, they work especially well for the transition of near-retirees into retirement. Instead of a full-stop retirement, your boomers can work a flexible schedule, or shift to a less intense role, enabling you to ensure knowledge transfer and training while giving your near-retirees a soft transition into retirement. (Check out a useful SHRM article on Phased Retirement: Questions to Ask, Actions to Take.)

2. Mentorship

Set up programs through which experienced workers can mentor younger employees. It’s an opportunity for knowledge transfer over time, rather than trying to quickly train younger employees when older workers retire. Workforce.com research finds that mentoring works particularly well between boomers and millennials.

3. Including older workers in your recruiting strategy

Studies show that the majority of older workers want to remain in the workforce. Cast a wide net with your recruiting strategy to benefit from attracting older candidates with the soft skills and years of experience that may greatly help your organization.

As more employers turn to social media for recruiting, include AARP’s Life Reimagined for Work talent exchange. It helps employers find experienced workers while helping experienced professionals connect to more satisfying careers.  Demonstrate your organization’s commitment to an age-diverse workforce by signing the Life Reimagined for Work Employer Pledge.

Your organization could also benefit from AARP’s virtual career fairs. Through them, AARP connects potential candidates with employers that sign a pledge that they value experienced workers.

If your organization is struggling with the financial and experiential costs of the skills gap, include age workers over 50 in your approach to closing it. Take advantage of creative ways to extend experienced workers’ tenure to benefit everyone.

©AARP 2014

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