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Baby Boomers: Your talent shortage secret weapon

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Between a talent shortage and economic downturn, finding top talent can be one of HR’s biggest headaches right now.

With a low unemployment rate – hovering around 3.5% – HR is at a loss with where to find talent. “What that low unemployment number means for [HR pros] is something very different than what it means for the rest of the world,” Dethra Giles, CEO at Execuprep, said in her recent talk, “Baby Boomers: The Next Talent Boom” at SHRMTalent. “That number means, ‘Hey, this is all that’s available in the labor pool.’”

However, HR may be overlooking one critical part of the talent pool: retirees. With thousands of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day – in what’s coined the “The Great Retirement” – many organizations are grappling with what to do as more and more Baby Boomers leave the workforce.

However, many retirees aren’t done for good. In fact, a recent report from Paychex found that one in six retired Americans are considering re-entering the workforce.

An organization that can create and execute a strategy to bring in retirees – even if it’s just on a part-time or temporary basis – may be better suited amidst a tight labor market. 

Here are three keys laid out by Giles to build a hiring strategy for Baby Boomers.

Be proactive

Even if HR can see the untapped potential in retirees, the real challenge can be getting buy-in from leadership. Many leaders are afraid to hire older people because they have misconceptions, such as:

These misconceptions can stop leaders from seeing Baby Boomers as long-term investments and keep them searching for top talent in younger generations. “The thing that’s stopping us the most from actually tapping into this generation of talent is that we have a skewed view of Baby Boomers,” Giles said.

But the truth is that while some Baby Boomers may have health issues or be content in their retirement, many are living healthy, active lives and can contribute a breadth of knowledge and expertise.

“These people are out here living their lives and they are physically well, they are mentally well and they are more than able to contribute to the workforce,” said Giles. “Until we change our image of what we think the retirement age looks like, we will always have this idea that they aren’t able to give back to our workplace.”

Plus, hiring retirees can help you be proactive amidst a talent shortage. “Our first line of defense [in recruiting] will be those people that have already been there,” said Giles. “They already know the lay of the land. If they decide to come back, it’s a plus for you.”

Redesign the job

To attract retirees, it’s important to reimagine what the job may look like.

Baby Boomers want specific perks and benefits, according to Giles, such as:

Revamping your benefits to align with what Baby Boomers really want can be a great attraction tool, but it’s also important to remember that the job itself may need to be redesigned to accommodate the needs of an older generation.

“Reskilling has to be a part of your strategy when going after the Baby Boomers,” Giles said. Since many retirees may not have the hands-on knowledge and software or technology skills that newer workers do, a talent strategy for this generation should include reskilling, re-educating and looking at transferable skills.

Giles recommends asking yourself, “How do I design or redesign the jobs that we have to attract this level of talent and type of talent?”

Redesigning the job may also means redefining what leadership looks like.

“Redefine what it looks like to maintain leaders – oftentimes the best recruitment process is to never let them leave in the first place,” Giles said. She recommends asking those getting ready to retire, “Before you exit, what does keeping you look like?”

Embrace flexible work

Although many assume that a retiree doesn’t want to work at all anymore, the truth is that they may just not want to work in the traditional 9-5 setting – but they’re still looking for ways to keep their mind active.

Giles recommends bringing retirees back on a part-time basis or for a specific project. Their expertise gives them an advantage over other workers doing the same job. “That person could probably do more in three hours a day than the person you have now that’s wasting your time working 10,” said Giles.

Flexible work doesn’t just mean compressed schedules, either. Whether it be through remote work, a third workspace or an asynchronous schedule, flexibility can be the key factor that can attract and retain retirees.

“If you’re going to be going after these Baby Boomers, they’re going to be looking for flexible work,” advises Giles.

Another way to retain senior leaders may be to utilize them in the succession plan. This could look like bringing them on as a leadership consultant to help younger generations step into these new roles by providing their expertise and institutional knowledge.

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