Future-proofing an aging workforce

Best practices, research, and strategies from leading companies.

Projected to represent 1 in 4 U.S. workers by 2024,1 baby boomers–ages 55 to 75–now make up the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace.

Today’s employment market is flourishing thanks to these boomers, who continue to push past retirement to work longer and at higher rates than before. Despite growing aging workforce trends, 10,000 baby boomers will become eligible for retirement each day over the next ten years,2 and 80% of older Americans still plan to retire shortly after turning 65.3

To put these numbers into perspective, of the 164 million people working, 30 million will retire in the next decade. Look around you–that’s 1 in 5 of your current employees.

Now that we have your attention, don’t get left behind. To get a competitive edge, you need to be proactive about building your candidate pipeline early and reiterating often, developing workplace mentoring programs that engage older colleagues with younger ones, and harnessing knowledge to ensure no business intelligence falls through the cracks.

What steps are you taking to future-proof your organization?

Bridging the Aging Talent Gap through Mentoring

One of the most common reasons people leave their jobs is because they aren’t growing in their careers.4 This is especially true of millennials and Gen Z who crave opportunities to develop and refine their skillset, leaving workplace mentoring to be an effective way to engage a diverse, multi-generational workforce.

According to an AARP survey, 3 in 4 adults say working with older colleagues gives them an opportunity to learn new skills.3 The benefits of mentoring go both ways. Through mentorship, older employees can hone their creativity, tech, and social media skills while younger workers can gain wisdom and insight into navigating the workplace. To learn more, check out how companies like National Geographic and Bain & Company are leading the way with their impact-driven reverse mentoring programs.

Goldman Sachs’ New Associate Program, for example, is offered to final year students working toward an advanced degree in 23 of the firm’s offices around the world. Interacting closely with senior business leaders, associates develop product- and function-specific skills through the program while networking with senior professionals who help guide their career. The firm also offers formal mobility through the program and bills its associate roles as a key pipeline for management positions across business areas.

Another example is that of construction, mining, and energy equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar, which offers seven professional development programs through various fields for their employees to choose from, alongside 13 employee resource groups (ERGs) for additional mentoring and support.

On the other hand, The McKinsey Mentoring program is designed to connect prospective employees with people who share career path insights at McKinsey and offer professional guidance, according to the company’s website. From skills development to advice on working in a changing environment, McKinsey Mentors offer practical strategies for success. Two program recipients shared their experience recently. Their story of hesitance to confidence exemplifies what a successful mentoring program looks like.

After connecting with leaders from McKinsey’s Black Network–one of many ERGs the company sponsors–open and honest coaching from their mentors led to a stress-free first interview process, and ultimately, rewarding careers at the organization.

Students today typically get advice about choosing a major from friends and family (55%), even though the most helpful advice comes from experienced workers (84%).5 Imagine if your mentoring program was so effective, it could help early career talent connect with experienced leaders so they can feel more comfortable and confident about working with you long-term.

Through these examples, the role of HR becomes a regulatory one–to develop a program that enables people matching for those who want to learn and assist others.

Paving the Way for the Next-Gen Talent Pipeline

As boomers retire, a growing cohort will shape the future of work. The 61 million people born after 1996–Gen Z–is a demographic known for being eager and innovative, and one that will soon be graduating college in droves. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), schools will reward nearly 4 million college degrees during the 2019-20 academic year alone.

Employers ahead of this trend are already looking to early career candidates to help them step into the future. Today, Handshake empowers 400,000 employers–including 500 of the Fortune 500–to recruit the 4.5 million active students and young alumni on Handshake’s network into today’s pressing technology-driven and entry-level roles. These employers are screening past legacy requirements, like GPA and hard skills, and instead, are turning to majors and soft skills to get a sense of how a candidate might thrive in their workplace.

They are also choosing to highlight uniquely personalized employer brands to each of their early career candidate personas, like software developers, and leverage campaigns to proactively build an arsenal of early career candidates to weather talent shortages in the years to come.

For organizations looking to upskill, tapping into this mobile generation is one of the most effective ways to build a diverse talent pipeline for today’s skilled roles, including marketing, software development & engineering, data analytics, and data science.

By building your early talent pipeline early and reiterating often and developing robust mentoring programs, you can start bridging the talent gap left by today’s aging workforce. The ideas in this post are in no way conclusive, but they are excellent ways to get generations talking to, learning from, and sharing knowledge with one another.

1  https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/older-workers.htm