The Baby Boomer Retirement

The baby boom began in 1946 and continued through 1964. The number of births during this period, 76 million, has had a major impact on many aspects of our economy over the last 50 years. It also has largely determined the size and age composition of the labor force for the past 30 years. In 1978, when baby-boomers were aged 15 to 32, they made up approximately 45 percent of the labor force. Now, in large part reflecting the aging of the baby-boomers, the percentage of workers aged 45 and older will increase from 33 percent of the labor force in 1998 to 40 percent in 2008, adding nearly 17 million workers to this age group. Over the 1998–2008 period, the oldest baby-boomers will be aged 52 to 62. After 2008, as more and more baby-boomers reach retirement age, the impact of their retirements will continue to grow.

All businesses should prepare for the wave of retiring boomers. As the workforce shrinks, attraction and retention will become more critical to a business’s success and continued growth and older workers will be a resource.

Surveys indicate that most baby boomers intend to remain in the workplace once they reach or pass traditional retirement age. Most boomers envision a retirement in which they will work in some manner either for enjoyment or financial need.

The blending of older workers with younger supervisors can create some cultural and managerial problems in the workplace. Companies can enlarge their diversity initiatives to include tolerance and honor for all differences rather than just from racial and gender differences. This appreciation of the differences among workers may lead to a management style that focuses on the results of a project or job position and utilizes available skills rather than focusing on individual employees.

To prepare you can begin to identify the aging workers whose knowledge, experience and business contacts are so valuable that you cannot bear to lose them early. Develop incentives to keep these aging workers on staff longer and, at the same time, prepare replacements for them by assigning younger employees as understudies.

Review your workplace and compensation practices to accommodate the older workers including flexible schedules, job-sharing and part-time job opportunities. Offering more flexibility in benefit programs and health coverage may be provide incentive for the older workers to continue working. Businesses can make environmental changes to accommodate the older worker such as benches near elevators, larger computer screens, and more accommodating office furniture.

As the working population ages there may be an increase in discrimination lawsuits brought by older workers who’ve lost their jobs. Consult with your lawyer to ensure that your operations comply with the Older Worker’s Benefit Protection Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The single biggest reason cited by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when determining whether age discrimination in the workplace has occurred is lack of communication. Talk to your employees with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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