TouchPoint Recruiting Group

The Big Boom

by Mark Barnhart, CPC, CERS


The Big Boom is that loud noise signaling the beginning of a mass exodus from the workforce population. It is not from the recession, or the ongoing layoffs facing businesses today; it is from the nearly 77 million Baby Boomers that will be leaving (or have left) the workforce over the next 20 years. While current economic conditions may have pushed some of these Boomers’ retirement plans back a few years, the exodus has most certainly begun. The first of these Boomers actually retired on October 15, 2007, when Kathleen Casey-Kirshling of New Jersey (born Jan. 1, 1946 at 12:00:01 AM) filed for Social Security.

This ushers in the start of a new type of employment problem: Not enough qualified workers for open positions.

A report from the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) estimates that only 46 million new hires will be available as replacements for the 77 million Boomers retiring. And while the noise caused by 77 million people leaving the workforce will be tremendous, the deafening boom caused by the knowledge drain these same employees take with them into retirement will be much, much louder. Years of critical decision making, industry knowledge, service expertise, specific skills and client relationships will be lost as these Boomers collect their last paychecks.

Are Companies Prepared?

Like the majority of U.S. companies, the answer to this question is probably not. A study conducted by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College shows that close to 70 percent of the nearly 700 organizations surveyed do not know the demographics of their workers or, more importantly, how many of them are thinking of retirement.

Another poll (ASTD, 2009) of nearly 1,200 U.S. companies found that almost 80 percent of firms polled believe that a “skill gap” is already prevalent in their organizations, and feel the new hires do not possess the skills needed to achieve long-term company goals.

These new hires – the Gen Xers and Gen Ys – are a company's future. They have the technical skills that Baby Boomers envy – the so called “new” business tools (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) – but many lack the business skills and savvy that are needed to move an organization forward. The reality is businesses need the generations (the old and new business tools) working together, learning from one another.

Create a Plan

  • Start by assessing the situation. Look around the organization. Determine what the demographics are for the company, and look at each department separately. Where are the Boomers in the company? C-level? Sales? Key management positions? Is there a true succession plan for these positions?
  • Is there someone who is absorbing their knowledge and skills?
  • When are some of these key people planning to retire?
  • What programs are in place (or need to be created) to document the knowledge and critical data of these retiring workers?
  • Is there a formal mentoring program which is allowing this critical data to be passed along to the next generation of workers?
  • Does this training program allow for generational differences? Remember, Boomers learn differently than those from Gen X and Gen Y.

Learning new skills should not be a one-way street. Boomers are dedicated, hard working employees who want to learn and be challenged as much as anyone in the organization. Create a mentoring program that allows for two-way learning. The social networking, tech-savvy Gen Xers and Gen Ys can be sharing with the Boomers at the same time they are learning from them, making the entire company stronger today while ensuring long-term success tomorrow.

Mark Barnhart is the director of TouchPoint Recruiting Group, LLC. For more information, contact Mark at 317.452.1202 or