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Aging workforce a challenge for most firms in the region, NEHRA survey says

Over 85% still lack an overall strategy to offset the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation


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By Northeast Human Resources Association

Firms in New England will soon be facing a critical workplace shortage as the baby boomer generation retirement looms.

So say the results of a new survey by the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA). Over 85% of all firms queried said they did not have a recruiting strategy in place to offset the impending retirement of the baby boomers from the workplace, and only 5% responded that they did have a plan in place, with 10% not sure. The survey by NEHRA, the leading HR association in New England with over 3,500 members, was conducted to determine how well local organizations are prepared for the upcoming retirement of the baby boomer generation.

"We are already facing a talent shortage in the New England area, and with the retirement of the baby boomer generation at hand, it will only get worse," advises Dan Henry, Chairman of the Board of NEHRA. "We hope these findings help generate some serious discussions and solutions for local businesses before any real crises occur."

Of the firms that do have an active strategy in place, many of them site succession planning as a key tactic. Succession planning is a process whereby an organization ensures that employees are recruited and developed to fill each key role within the company. College recruitment was also cited as a tool many are using to increase their workforce.

Over 43% reported that the 50-60 yr. old age group made up from 10-20% of their workforce, while over 40% reported that the 40-50 age group made up roughly 20-30% of their workforce. Lastly, 73% reported that the 60+ age group was fewer than 10% of their workforce.

Flex-time reported as key in keeping older workers working

Over 83% of respondents reported not having a formalized plan to retain retirement-eligible workers, while only a little over 7% reported having one in place. Of those that reported having one in place, over 74% reported flex-time was the best tactic to retain these workers. Job sharing ranked second at 26% and telecommuting was third at 40%.

When asked if their organization implemented any cross-generational training aimed at helping baby boomers, Gen X'ers, and millennials work together more effectively despite generational differences, over 80% said they had not. Only 15% said they had some training in place. When asked if they had a continuing education module in place to train their long-term employees on the latest trends and technologies, 57% said they did not. Still, 34% said they did have training in place.

Ninety respondents wrote in when asked what their biggest challenge is in facing an aging workforce. Some of the responses included ensuring they do not lose subject matter expertise. Many respondents found that keeping institutional knowledge was also one of their biggest challenges. Lack of respect for aging workforce by younger workers was also cited repeatedly as a big challenge. Lack of time to train current workforce was another challenge reported by many. Finally, making management aware of the situation and convincing them it is a priority was reported as a big challenge facing respondents.

About NEHRA and the survey

Over 3,500 HR professionals, representing large and small companies in all industries within the region, as well as individuals providing products and services to the human resources community, comprise NEHRA's membership base. A total of 194 NEHRA members and nonmembers responded to the online survey, which was conducted from June 18-29, 2007. Visit the NEHRA website for full survey results. (Note: Some percentages do not total 100% as multiple responses were allowed.)

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