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Getting in Front of the Boomer Brain Drain
October 24, 2017
Maria Schuld, Group Executive – Financial Services Group
Ten thousand people will retire every day for the next 20 years in the United States. It’s called the “Boomer Brain Drain” and it’s something every company should be planning to face.
The business of retirement is risky for companies
55 percent of U.S. company leadership is made up of baby boomers – people between the ages of 53 and 71. Despite that, fewer than one-quarter have reviewed the retirement rates of current employees – only a third have even analyzed their employee demographics.
Companies at the highest risk of being unprepared are those that haven’t evaluated their workforces for single points of failure – meaning only one person in the company has the necessary skills for the job. An example that comes to mind is the number of COBAL programmers who will retire soon. According to Reuters, three trillion dollars of commerce flow through COBAL systems daily. Financial institutions rely on the language, but few universities still teach it. So, who will take the place of retiring COBAL programmers? And where will they get the critical skills that boomers have polished over their careers?
It’s imperative to have this knowledge transfer to the younger generations. However, today’s style of working hinders that because it’s characterized so much by on-the-job training and relative isolation due to remote worksites.
It’s time to plan for retirement
The time is now to put plans in place to mitigate the impact of the Boomer Brain Drain. Here are 10 steps to make a difference:
- Collect the demographics of employees, which positions they hold and what they know. Find out if employees have broader skillsets than those they use in their current positions. In many cases, a young worker has the foundation on which he/she can gain knowledge to step up upon boomer retirement.
- Determine which individuals control key client relationships that could be put at risk due to retirement. Put “warm handoffs” in place. Include the person who will replace the retiring boomer in meetings well in advance of the boomer’s last day.
- Examine your processes, tools, and products. You may discover better and more efficient ways to accomplish tasks or uncover the need to upgrade technology. Upon revisiting grandfathered products, you may decide to phase them out.
- Take a hard look at your corporate culture. Do people share information or do they hoard it? Older workers may feel vulnerable about sharing information with people they view as replacements, which can sometimes contribute to hoarding rather than sharing.
- Recognize the differences between generations, in terms of where they are in their life journeys and what their motivations are. Find common ground for the generations to work together. If needed, bring in a facilitator to help break down barriers.
- Establish formal mentorship programs between boomer and millennials. Research shows that 75 percent of millennials want a mentor and 58 percent of them prefer to turn to baby boomers vs. Gen Xers for professional advice.
- Look at incentives for baby boomers to stay on the job longer and help train younger employees.
- Implement formal training programs to prepare emerging leaders.
- Evaluate your market area for educational programs to develop key skills.
- Determine how competitive talent acquisition is in your market and what’s needed to attract and retain employees.