UNEMPLOYMENT / MAR. 28, 2014
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Executives Unconcerned About Baby Boomers Retiring Could Be Good News For Youth

In the coming years, Baby Boomers – adults born between 1946 and 1964 – will be exiting the labor force, receiving their company and government pensions and relaxing in retirement. According to Statistics Canada, more than one-fifth of the workforce is nearing or has passed the retirement age.

Many have expected a dire scenario – businesses unable to cope without their experienced, educated workers – but a new survey has discovered that executives are not too worried about Baby Boomers leaving the company.

The results from a recent poll by human resources firm Robert Half show that only a little more than one-quarter (26 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) are worried about their Baby Boomer workers retiring, but nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of financial executives are entirely unworried – 47 percent not at all concerned; 17 percent somewhat unconcerned.

When the CFOs were asked what would be the greatest loss to the company because of a Baby Boomer retiring, the answers were mixed: legacy knowledge (29 percent), functional skills (18 percent), leadership (16 percent) and non-technical attributes (14 percent). Close to one-quarter (22 percent) didn’t know.

"As a best practice, all organizations should prepare their operations for the departure of experienced professionals, be it to retirement or otherwise," said Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half, International Staffing Operations, in a statement. "Properly-developed succession plans can ensure that legacy knowledge, functional skillsets and leadership will stay with the firm."

One suggestion put forward by the head of Robert Half is to implement transitional programs to allow full-time, professional employees to head into retirement with ease, while helping the company train new staff members.

“Despite approaching retirement, many dedicated employees want to continue contributing to their teams with the expertise they've gained over the years," he added. "Businesses can benefit from this as well by working with these employees on a consulting basis to train staff members on technical and non-technical skills, keeping the knowledge within the company while supporting employees through a smooth transition."

Yahoo! Finance recently noted that this can be found in both the public and private sectors. For instance, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently announced his resignation and Prime Minister Stephen Harper tipped Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver for the position. It’s now likely that Flaherty will give Oliver a helping hand to help with the nation’s fiscal picture before jettisoning off back into the private sector.

Nevertheless, a large number of Baby Boomers are refraining from leaving the workforce entirely because of the overall economy and their overall personal financial situation.

In a recent Gallup poll, more than one-third (39 percent) of Baby Boomers said they don’t expect to retire until they are 66 or older – another 10 percent said that they will never retire. Right now, the workforce in the U.S. and Canada is split into three groups: Millennials (33 percent), Generation X (32 percent) and Baby Boomers (31 percent).

“Whether by choice or necessity, baby boomers will remain a sizable proportion of the workforce in the years ahead, with many expecting to work past the average U.S. retirement age of 61 and even the traditional retirement age of 65,” Gallup stated in its Bottom Line. “As they continue to age and work, it is important that their organizations build workplaces with outstanding managers who leverage the experiences of older workers by positioning them to do what they do best – listening to their insights and opinions, and continuing to develop their talents into strengths.”

Good News for Youth?

The Robert Half study might be appear to be positive news for youth and a message that business executives do have confidence in the younger generation to move the company forward successfully. With many young adults graduating and unable to find work, there has been immense concern that older workers were not going to leave their current jobs and thus not give their younger counterparts any opportunities.

At the height of the Great Recession, there were fears that older workers were taking jobs from younger adults. It was an assertion that has led to much resentment between the young and old, but economists argue that these notions aren’t necessarily supported by fact.

"There's no evidence to support that increased employment by older people is going to hurt younger people in any way," said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research and the co-author with Wu of “Are Aging Baby Boomers Squeezing Young Workers Out of Jobs?,” in an interview with the Associated Press. "It's not going to reduce their wages, it's not going to reduce their hours, it's not going to do anything bad to them.”

Nevertheless, the perception persists and has even ventured into politics as well. It was noted that one NBC reporter asked if California Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to step down from House leadership has hurt younger politicians from seeking leadership roles in Washington. Pelosi labeled it as an “offensive” question.

However, many youth understood the nature of the question and believe that their own lives have been hurt because many older workers in the labor market today are taking away jobs, promotions and other opportunities from youth.

Are you a millennial who feels that older workers have damaged your job prospects? Your comments below please…

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