Australian businesses concerned Baby Boomer departure will worsen skills shortage.

Employers must utilise aged workforce.

As Australia’s Baby Boomer generation gradually retires from the workforce, their exit poses a knowledge and experience vacuum that is expected to contribute significantly to skills shortages across the country. An independent survey of 620 hiring managers in Australia, commissioned by Robert Half, shows 86 per cent are concerned the Baby Boomer departure will impact available skillsets in their organisation. Indeed, 78 per cent forecast it will be more challenging to find qualified professionals in the coming five years.

Australia’s population is steadily ageing, with the number of people aged 65 and over expected to make up 18 per cent of the population by 2029. This will have two concurrent effects on the workforce. Firstly, there will be a higher proportion of employees over the age of 65 in the workforce than ever before. Plus, this shift will be further amplified by the Australian government’s plan to raise the age to claim pension from 66 to 67 by the year 2023 to cushion the economic impact of the inevitable Baby Boomer workforce departure, further extending the career span of Baby Boomers in the workforce. Simultaneously, 90 per cent of Australia’s 5.3 million Baby Boomers are forecast to have retired by 2029, catalysing a knowledge exodus and potentially creating millions of job vacancies in Australia.

To address the skills shortage, Australian hiring managers are taking several measures to ensure knowledge held by the Baby Boomer generation doesn’t get lost when they retire. Developing teams consisting of different generations is the most popular measure, undertaken by 43 per cent of Australian managers, followed by 42 per cent who are implementing mentoring/coaching programs. Other steps to harness Baby Boomer knowledge include setting up training sessions with all employees (41 per cent), implementing online platforms where everyone can input their experience (39 per cent), and tracking success of former projects through specialised systems (38 per cent).

“With Baby Boomers gradually retiring from the workforce, there is consensus across Australian workplaces about the impact of their departure, and the need to transfer their unique skills and knowledge to younger generations in the workforce,” said Andrew Morris, director of Robert Half. “Leveraging the higher concentration of a mature-aged workforce is in fact the key to mitigating the very skills vacuum their departure presents. In order to best prepare their incumbent workforce, businesses should not only put in place knowledge transfer initiatives, they should also nurture their most experienced employees and consider them a valuable asset in helping organisations prepare for the future.”


How can businesses better utilise and value their most experienced staff members?


  • Tap into the Baby Boomers’ wealth of knowledge and experience: Create opportunities for Baby Boomer employees to mentor new and lesser experienced staff members. This will help them feel valued as they share their wealth of knowledge with a new generation of workers.


  • Spark cross-generational innovation: Foster collaboration across generations by setting up sessions to spur cross pollination of ideas between all the generational groups within the business, further boosting innovation as it invites new and different perspectives.


  • Ensure flexibility is an option: Offering flexible work hours and family leave opportunities can help Baby Boomers – as all workers – maintain a healthy work-life balance. This in turn increases employee engagement.


  • Offer development and learning programs: While employees nearing retirement are not prioritising significant career progression opportunities, they still seek stimulation and challenge in their role. Training programs should therefore be accessible to all staff. Also consider that Baby Boomers might be interested in lateral or even lower-level job roles, if these positions allow them to learn new skills or provide a new challenge.


  • Provide health care initiatives:  Organising health initiatives, such as annual flu vaccinations, and on-site eye and ear examinations are not only an efficient way to avoid having employees to take time off work, they also serve as an attractive incentive for Baby Boomers.


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