The Lost Generation of Talent

The Lost Generation of Talent
Who created it, who can take advantage, and how smart companies are filling it.

By: Mike McDonough

Baby Boomers are rapidly leaving the workforce. It seems like everyone in the industry knows it and are dealing with the repercussions every day. We’re taking a look at the causes of this lost generation of talent and the ripples it’s causing across our industry.

What’s causing the lost generation?
As Millennials and members of Generation X start comprising more of the workforce, Baby Boomers are seeing their opportunities shrink and their jobs being taken by younger, less-experienced employees. The reason? False information. Companies like to believe that younger workers are cheaper, smarter and a better long-term investment for the organization. Unfortunately, all of these assumptions are false. Over 90% of Fortune 400 executives believe that investing in older workers has an extremely high ROI (Return on Investment) and actually saves money in the long run due to the reduced cost of training and the increased experience they bring to the role. As the average age of executives continues to climb, senior workers are also staying better informed and well-trained for their positions. A recent SHRM survey found that companies rated older workers as “very valuable” at a rate of 77%. When Baby Boomers find a home at a company, they also tend to stay at a higher rate than their younger counterparts, with organizations finding their turnover rate to be 88% lower with senior employees compared to those between 25 and 34. If businesses want to change the rate that experienced employees are leaving, they need to change the way they’re thinking and approach seasoned workers as the valuable commodity they truly are.

Who’s benefiting most?
As Baby Boomers move to retirement, Generation X is picking up the executive positions and leadership roles they’re leaving behind. But as formal and extensive training has been lacking in recent years, finding well-prepared professionals to step up into upper-level jobs can be quite the challenge. Gen X knows that highly-prepared employees are a rare commodity right now, so they’re cashing in by exploring new opportunities and leveraging them for promotions and raises that we’re available during the recession. If you think keeping a Baby Boomer on board is an expensive proposition, try luring your next wave of leadership away from multiple competing offers that are becoming increasingly common.

Generation X isn’t the only group realizing that a lack of experience can work in their favor. The Baby Boomers who are still in the workforce are using the exodus of their colleagues to negotiate better benefits, higher salaries and more consultative positions that allow for less work and better pay. More seniors are easing into retirement and using the talent gap to find arrangements that let them work from home, work part-time or even transition into more of a training role that lets them ease away from the stress of their previous job.

How are companies avoiding the lost generation?
The short answer? Companies that think long-term are benefiting where shortsighted organizations struggle. Hiring well-trained, experienced employees is becoming an expensive, if not impossible, proposition. Companies that have robust training programs in place will certainly see a significant ROI for their efforts. Leveraging the Baby Boomers still in their workforce as part of a mentorship or cross-generational team, instead of showing them the door, has also produced better long-term results. Finding the skills that make your seasoned employees successful and passing those same characteristics on to your up-and-coming talent will help you avoid the talent vacuum that many other organizations are already suffering from.

Knowing what is causing this lost generation of talent, who is benefiting from it and how top companies are navigating the problem can help your organization avoid suffering from a lack of ability at the top. Dealing with this challenge now, and in the future, will be the biggest test for the industry. It will take creativity and patience to make sure you have the right people in executive roles in the coming years. Leveraging the talent you have now and grooming the talent that’s rising through your organization will put you miles ahead of the competition and make sure your company is in good hands for years to come.

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