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Facing a wave of retirements, most businesses have no idea what is at stake.
In 2014, the
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the
SHRM Foundation launched the
Aging Workforce Project, a three-year initiative highlighting the value of older workers and identifying best practices for employing an aging workforce. The project, which is supported by a grant from the
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will investigate current workforce demographics and how they are likely to change in the future.
A key component of the initiative is a SHRM survey of HR professionals that aims to assess how aware organizations are of this impending demographic shift and what, if any, actions organizations are taking to prepare for an aging workforce. Thirty-six percent of respondents said their organizations were beginning to examine internal policies and management practices to address this change. However, one-fifth said their organizations have already scrutinized their workforces and determined that no changes in their policies and practices are necessary. Another fifth indicated that their organizations were just becoming aware of this potential change in the ratio of older workers.
Few HR professionals currently believe that the potential loss of talent due to the retirements of aging workers is considered a crisis or even a problem in their industry, the survey found. The lack of concern is surprising, given recent media attention on skills shortages and rising recruiting difficulties.
But it may be partly due to a lack of information about precisely when and how these changes will take effect within a given industry or organization. Only about half of HR professionals said their organizations track the percentage of employees eligible to retire in the next one to two years, and even fewer forecast workforce demographics beyond that time frame. About 20 percent of organizations have conducted strategic workforce assessments involving the loss of workers ages 55 and older that identify future workforce needs and potential skills gaps in the next six years and beyond.
Additional SHRM research will look at how organizations are adjusting their recruiting and retention strategies to target older workers and assess the skills and experience that HR professionals most value in older workers. Overall, the latest findings indicate that businesses can start to address the upcoming skills gap by first filling the knowledge gap about the potential size and impact of the wave of retirements to come.
Jen Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.
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