Are companies doing enough — or anything at all — to retain the baby boomers who are beginning to move en masse toward retirement?

That’s the subject of an article in The New York Times, “A Longer Goodbye: Shorter Hours, Lighter Duties and Other Perks Entice Older Workers to Stay on the Job.”

The answer to the question: yes and no.

Three Corporate Voices partner companies, CVS, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, are featured in the article for their programs and activities designed to retain — and continue to benefit from the skills and expertise of — older workers through flexible work strategies and other arrangements.

Yet despite these positive examples, the article mentions that “programs to hold onto older workers are far from ubiquitous.” The article points to a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young:

“The accounting firm Ernst & Young recently asked 150 large companies how they were handling the graying workforce. The norm was benign neglect.”

Those comments mirror the results of a survey conducted in October 2006 by Corporate Voices for Working Families, WorldatWork and Buck Consultants. The primary objective of this survey was to assess the overall degree to which respondents considered the pending retirement of baby boomer employees, and reduced employee available in succeeding generations, to be a significant issue.

Here are some highlights from the study, The Real Talent Debate: Will Aging Boomers Deplete the Workforce?

  • Only 42 percent of employers believe that the aging workforce issue is significant, while 29 percent believe the issue has little or no significance.
  • More than 80 percent of respondents, regardless of industry, have not surveyed their mature workers to determine future work preferences or intentions.
  • The greatest potential risk identified with the exodus of mature workers is the corresponding departure of senior leadership, followed by middle management and technical talent and knowledge workers.

This is a significant issue relating to workforce readiness and working families.

Have an example of how your company is managing this issue effectively and creatively? We would welcome knowing about it and sharing the information with others.

by Rob Jewell