Retirees leave with pension and knowledge
February 4, 2015
A news item in the business section of the February 4, 2015 edition of The Dallas Morning News got my attention. It seems that "every tenth worker in America is eligible to retire this year or next." The article noted that "1 in 4 members of the U.S. labor force will soon be 55 or older" which is an increase from "1 in 8 in 2002. A new survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that on-third of organizations are concerned about the impact of older workers leaving their organization.
In many organizations, the loss of experienced employees will present a significant problem. The concern focuses on three questions: 1. Is their "institutional memory" being passed along?, 2. Will their "mature experience" be missed, and 3.) Is their "well-regarded" work ethic replicable?
Unfortunately, only about 20% of organizations have done "in-depth" assessments of the impact of the loss of older workers. One in five said their organizations had no strategies to transfer knowledge from older to younger workers.
Even more surprising is the response of companies to this loss of talent. More than half of the organizations do not recruit older workers in spite of the advantages they cited in experience, professionalism, work ethic, mentoring, and reliability. Instead they focus their efforts on initiatives in school systems to support science and technology education and programs.
Hopefully, this issue will provide a wake-up call to senior executives and human resources departments. It has been my experience that human resources fail badly in meeting the mission implied in their name. They fail to develop strategies that solve the concerns listed above and, even more critically, they fail to fully-utilize the abilities of their human resources.
This situation is very prevalent in the oil and gas industry. In spite of the fact that the industry is a capital-intensive business, the knee-jerk response to lower oil and gas prices is hiring freezes and staff reductions. Not unexpectedly, the cuts have already begun to hit the industry. Severance packages will be scooped up by retirement age employees who will leave with a hand full of cash and a head full of knowledge. Hiring freezes will be even crueler as new graduates who selected science and engineering careers will question their commitment to such rigorous programs.
What is needed is a break from the old approaches. New in-company programs directed at passing "institutional memory," "professionalism," and "work ethic" to new employees in a way that respects their contributions to the company and actively seeks to find to new outlets for their service.