SHRM Survey Finds Organizations Unprepared for Aging Workforce

Minority of organizations have identified potential skills gaps caused by retiring Baby Boomers

Jan 12, 2015

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows a lack of preparedness for the anticipated increase in older workers in the labor force, with just over one-third of organizations examining policies and practices to address the demographic change.

SHRM’s The Aging Workforce Survey found that an additional 20 percent of organizations had examined their workforce and determined that no changes in policies and practices were necessary.

The survey of HR professionals, part of a three-year national Aging Workforce Initiative by SHRM and the SHRM Foundation and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, comes at a time when members of the highly skilled and institutional-knowledge-rich Baby Boom generation are reaching retirement age. One-half of survey respondents said they track the percentage of their workers eligible to retire within the next one to two years, and they reported that 10 percent of employees would be eligible within two years.

About one-half of HR professionals did not think the potential loss of talent during the next one to two years would have an impact on their industry or organization. But one-third thought it would be a problem or a crisis for their industry and organization in the next six to 10 years.

A minority of HR professionals said their organization has analyzed the impact of older workers leaving the organization (17 percent), identified future workforce needs (21 percent) or identified potential skills gaps (20 percent) in the next six to 10 years.

“Because of the recession, some workers are staying in the workforce longer. But employers shouldn’t be fooled by that trend,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “The demographic change already is becoming an issue in industries such as health care, higher education, and gas, oil and mining, and it’s not going away.”

“Workforce planning is important,” she added, “because it will help position organizations to take strategic advantage of their human capital, particularly in the context of an aging workforce.”

The three-part survey polled more than 1,900 randomly selected SHRM members from May through July, 2014. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

In the next month, SHRM and the SHRM Foundation will publish an analysis of the gaps between current employer practices as identified in this survey and best practices suggested by academic and other research.

The survey also found:

Recruitment and Retention

  • Two-fifths of respondents indicated the increasing age of their workforce has not prompted changes in retention (42 percent), recruiting (42 percent) or general management policy practices (41 percent).
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) reported that their organization employed older workers who retired from other organizations or careers before joining their organization.
  • Sixty-one percent of HR professionals indicated their organization had attempted to capitalize on and incorporate the experience of older workers in recruitment and retention strategies.

Basic and Applied Skills

  • The top advantages of older workers were more work experience (cited by 77 percent of respondents), being more mature/professional (71 percent) and having a stronger work ethic (70 percent).
  • The strongest basic skill held by older workers was writing in English, cited by 45 percent of respondents, and the strongest applied skill was professionalism/work ethic, cited by 58 percent.
  • One-third of respondent organizations had not taken any steps to prepare for potential skills gaps as a result of the loss of older workers. For the organizations that had taken steps, the most common were increased training and cross-training (42 percent) and succession planning (33 percent).
  • More than one-half (54 percent) had implemented training or cross-training programs to transfer knowledge from older to younger workers.

For details on The Aging Workforce Survey, visit:

A new Effective Practice Guidelines report The Aging Workforce: Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees is now available from the SHRM Foundation.

For more information on the SHRM and SHRM Foundation Aging Workforce Initiative, visit and

Media: For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and or Vanessa Gray at 703-535-6072 and

About the Society for Human Resource Management

Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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