Time to face the Baby Boomer crisis

It’s one of the biggest and well-documented issues facing Australian organisations today – the pending retirement of the baby boomers from the workforce. I have spoken to a number of clients and it’s estimated that up to 40 per cent of the workforce will enter into the retirement zone in the next five years. This is particularly prevalent in government organisations where long-serving members with 40 years of service are getting ready to retire.

The pending retirement has major implications for workforce planning, including succession planning and knowledge transfer, because when these people leave, so does 30 to 40 years of experience and tacit organisational knowledge. Whole departments are facing a skills shortage and, in some instances, the skills are not being replaced or are not easily replaced.

The ‘younger generations’ don’t want to be told what to do! X-generation managers and leaders have fought their way to the top in a very competitive, climb the corporate ladder world, and in many instances are highly educated to MBA level. The Y generation have their own unique way and style of management so ‘old-style’ management is not going to cut it with these ‘younger generations’.

My research confirms that there is also a large group of baby boomers who are not ready for retirement, may never really ever stop working, and want to continue to make a difference, contribute to the organisation and build a legacy, something which they can be very proud of. They have a good 10 years left in the tank, but they don’t want the managerial responsibility and they want to do it easier than the last 30 years! They are over the politics, the 60-hour weeks, missing the family; they want to spend more time doing what’s important, including focusing on family and health and, in some instances, service to the community.

This is where coaching becomes vitally important. Coaching at the departmental level enables the baby boomers to bring out the best in the people around them, transfer knowledge where appropriate, and give guidance and mentorship where it is requested.

Coaching baby boomers to become coaches enables them to focus on their future and to set some real goals and direction for the forthcoming years; it allows them to contract back to the organisation as coaches and mentors, helps with the retaining of subject matter expertise in the organisation, enables knowledge transfer and, most importantly, gives the baby boomers a new lease of life.

In addition, developing baby boomers into coaches in the organisation and continuing to invest in their learning and development is an extremely strong way for the organisation to demonstrate to their most distinguished people that they are valued. Rather than have these people serve out their last five years taking sick leave and becoming increasingly bitter and twisted, they are re-inventing themselves and finding a new lease of life.

I call it the ‘grey-haired factor’.  In working extensively in the area, transferring coaching skills to this senior group of people across a number of organisations, it is clear that the amazing contribution that this generation can continue to provide, both personally and professionally, through coaching and mentoring cannot be underestimated.

Natalie Ashdown is the CEO of the Open Door Coaching Group and author of the latest book on corporate coaching Bring Out Their Best – Inspiring a Coaching Culture in Your Workplace. You can purchase the book here.

What are you doing to address the baby boomer crisis?