Demographic Challenges: Baby Boomer Retirements
The specter of millions of retiring baby boomers looms like a colossus over the nation's social and economic fabric. The potential calamity of the so-called “boomers” and their imminent departure from the workforce is a genuine concern for both business organizations and government institutions alike. Courtesy of their considerable numbers, the actions of baby boomers have indisputable consequences on matters far and wide.
No, this section isn't going to ring another Social Security warning bell. It's not going to discourse on the budding crisis that swirls around the recompensing of this sprawling generation in its golden years. Nevertheless, what is addressed here is a matter of equal import.
The baby boomer generation is widely considered to consist of the men and women born between the years 1946 and 1964. Some demographers end the baby boom in 1962. Approximately 78 million boomers were born in the United States between the years 1946 and 1964. Boomers International estimates that there are roughly 450 million baby boomers worldwide.
Different Organizational Faces
The wholesale exiting of baby boomers from the workforce over the coming decade will leave many organizations with huge holes to fill in the talent and skills department. Businesses' abilities to fill essential job roles will be severely tested in the coming years. This employment reality is a gathering storm. In fact, it's already a budding problem for numerous organizations in both the private and public sectors.
In the imminent future, many enterprises will encounter critical talent vacuums unlike anything they've experienced before. Finding individuals with the requisite educational backgrounds, temperaments, and abilities to assume indispensable jobs and occupations is guaranteed to be a huge challenge. This widening skills chasm on the employment frontlines is why coaching and mentoring methodologies are more important than ever before.
Unlike traditional management approaches, coaching and mentoring methods instill in employees knowledge and skills that not only perform admirably in the present, but neatly bridge to the future as well. Ideally, coaches and mentors educate individuals under their patient and far-sighted tutelage to be the movers and shakers of tomorrow.
What's So Special About the Baby Boomer?
The Bureau of Labor is warning of shortages of qualified personnel in occupations running a wide gamut from social workers to police to photographers to teachers. And, needless to say, it is increasingly difficult to fill those many corporate office chairs with competent fannies. The talent and skills shortage in the labor market is not a mirage.
The ubiquitous baby boomer is not blessed with a higher IQ than previous and subsequent generations. As a group, baby boomers have no extraordinary qualities that make them any better than the preponderance of humankind. Boomers have, on occasion, been branded an uncomplimentary thing or two.
The baby boom generation succeeded what newsman Tom Brokaw labeled the “Greatest Generation” in his best-selling book of the same name. The Greatest Generation chronicled the lives and times of men and women who lived through a Great Depression, fought a victorious war over a most depraved tyranny, and then raised large families — of baby boomers — in not always the most idyllic circumstances. Some thought that Brokaw's book reflected poorly on boomers, even if it wasn't the author's intention. (After all, Tom Brokaw is a baby boomer himself.)
So, this discussion is not a debate between the merits of baby boomers versus the Greatest Generation or Generation X or Y. It is a dialogue revolving around baby boomers and their work-specific skills — i.e., what they bring to the table vis-à-vis job attributes that are not being replenished in sufficient quantities upon their retirements. To be more exact, these are the skills urgently needed to both start successful companies and build on existing ones. They are the skills that ensure the efficient and effective running of all kinds of organizations. They are leadership skills. They are, alas, skills that are in shorter and shorter supply with each and every tick of the clock.