Plugging the Baby Boomer Brain Drain

Chris Young
March 11, 2008 — 2,086 views  
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You are probably well aware of the coming exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce. You may have even heard that the first official Baby Boomer – Kathleen Casey Kirchling – recently filed for social security benefits with the Social Security Administration, further underscoring the fast approaching departure of millions of highly trained and experienced workers from the workforce. Does this mean that all the Baby Boomers in your organization will be retiring tomorrow or in the coming months? Of course not, but eventually they will and it is in your best interest to have an action plan in place for retaining the knowledge and expertise that they have gained in their years of loyal employment with your organization. There are a number approaches of you may take to retain your team members’ knowledge and expertise before they retire. Some are more attractive to pending retirees than others. Remember… nobody wants to write a job manual in their final months before retirement! The following are five methods for retaining organizational knowledge and expertise that I have found to be effective: 1. Design and implement a mentoring program – Mentoring can be an incredibly effective way to pass knowledge on from one generation to the next. As those soon to retire have likely been with your organization for some time, you should have a good idea who would be interested on taking on a younger protégé. Approach these individuals and suggest several high potential team members that they might have in interest in sharing their knowledge and expertise with before they retire. 2. Offer part time work – For many the promise of retirement isn’t all it was cracked up to be. The sudden abundance of free time on one’s hand can be difficult to handle for some and many end up returning to the workforce part-time. Why let them take their knowledge and skills elsewhere? Let your Baby Boomers poised to retire know that you are willing to offer part time work (perhaps half days or shortened weeks) to ease the transition into retirement if they are interested in doing so. 3. Invite retirees to facilitate training – In most circumstances, a retiree’s job will be filled with a new employee. Who better to provide periodic training and development of this team member than the person he or she replaced? If your organization conducts in house training events, consider inviting recent retirees to facilitate training on topics that they are experts in. This is a great way to keep this knowledge from escaping your organization, and many retirees will enjoy this opportunity to keep in touch with former co-workers and friends. 4. Offer temporary project assignments – Consider giving boomers the option to stay involved with your organization’s operations on a project by project basis. This is a great way to provide senior leadership on company projects while still giving Boomers the sense of being retired. 5. Succession planning – One of the most important and frequently overlooked techniques for retaining organizational knowledge is succession planning. Succession planning is the process of identifying, training, and preparing the future leaders of your organization. Identify a small group of potential leaders for a given position in your organization and pair this group up with your most experienced team members to share their knowledge about the position and prepare these individuals for the new roles and responsibilities they are likely to assume. Implementing the suggestions above will go a long way in retaining the wealth of knowledge that your most experienced team members have gained through their years of loyal service to your organization and is a critical step in ensuring your organization’s success for years to come. You may not realize it, but there is a goldmine of knowledge and expertise within your organization that is poised to walk out the door forever in the coming years. Don’t let this valuable organizational knowledge disappear as your team members blow out the candles on their retirement cakes!

Chris Young


The Rainmaker Group is a human talent maximization company specializing in helping organization maximize their bottom lines by improving employee retention, hiring the best talent possible, and strategic talent management and coaching services. From the Fortune 50 corporation to the small medical office, The Rainmaker Group guarantees lasting organizational change via a unique blend of energy, insight, and science to maximize talent, transform organizational culture, and provide strategic intervention.