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Succession Planning Ensures Baby Boomer Retirements Don’t Bust Your Business

The steadily improving U.S. economy is causing many Baby Boomers, who were forced to delay their retirement plans when the Great Recession hit or who are naturally approaching retirement age, to look at exiting the workforce.

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If your Baby Boomer employees were to leave your company today, would your business continue to thrive and grow as you want and need it to? If you’ve answered “no,” or you are simply unsure, don’t worry. We have several strategies to help ensure your business doesn’t experience a void when the members of your aging workforce begin the next chapter of their lives.

Talk to Your Staff Age 50+ About Their Plans – It’s hard to plan for the future of your organization if you don’t know which members of your team are planning to begin downshifting in their current role. That’s why we encourage companies to make it a point to speak with their staff members, particularly those naturally approaching retirement age, and make them comfortable about discussing their plans for the future.

In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises companies to conduct “retirement coaching,” which ideally means more than providing a to-do list to employees announcing their retirement. Retirement coaching helps give both prospective retirees and future generations of the workforce a clearer view of their future with the organization.

Identify Key Employees Approaching Retirement – Once you know which members of your organization are taking steps toward retirement, be sure to focus your succession planning efforts on high priority employees, such as leadership team members, client service managers and personnel in other business-critical roles.

While identifying and working on a strategic transition plan with these employees is an important part of succession planning, it is equally important to make them feel as though they are not being pushed out, as the purpose of this exercise is about business continuity as these valued team members retire.

Carefully Evaluate Skills and Expertise of Your Transitioning Team Members – Although retirements impact all levels within an organization, it is especially important to identify the skills and experience gaps that will exist if several team members retire at the same time, and suddenly you have no one who knows how to perform a particular role, fix a machine or find important documents in an archive. Work closely with these employees to identify a plan to transition their skills and expertise to the next generation, so you have a back-up system in place for roles that are critical to the overall function and performance of your business.

If you are concerned that a long-time and/or critical member of your team is planning to retire more quickly than you had expected, you may consider offering a more flexible working arrangement, such downshifting to a part-time schedule, or consulting for your organization after retirement.

Develop Intergenerational Mentoring Programs – Pair talented and promising Generation X and Millennial staff members with Baby Boomer mentors in order to transition knowledge and experience from one generation to the next. Research conducted by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School suggests that loyal, long-serving employees often welcome the chance to transfer their knowledge, skills and experience to the next generation, take an active role in creating a legacy while helping to ensure the future success of the organization.

Hire for Tomorrow Today – When you are hiring talent to fill vacant or growing roles in your organization, make sure that both your current and future needs are top-of-mind with your HR department and hiring managers. Look for candidates who possess skills that align with those of key individuals who will likely be transitioning out of the workforce in the next few years. Or, consider candidates who have a strong potential to learn and grow into the roles of those who are retiring.

Create a Knowledge Management System – When you think about the collective knowledge base of your entire organization, does the majority of the most critical knowledge lie within the memories of your aging workforce? If so, it’s time to develop a system to codify and manage the intellectual capital within your organization, and make it easily accessible by all individuals so that your unique processes and competitive edge do not walk out the door with your retirees. Ignoring this very important business strategy can put your organization at risk of brain drain.

These efforts may take a little extra time and effort in the short-term, but succession planning is all about making sure you provide a solid foundation for growth and satisfaction – for your customers, your employees and your business – for many years to come.