Every Crisis is an Opportunity: Strategic Responses to the Baby Boomer Retirement Wave

Every Crisis is an Opportunity: Strategic Responses to the Baby Boomer Retirement Wave

Concern is spreading across the public sector that the imminent retirements of large numbers of Baby Boomers represents a “crisis” for government talent management. State and municipal governments all over the country are reporting increases in retirements, and the pace of attrition is expected to accelerate as government workers that put off retirement during the Great Recession now have the financial security to do so.

Many experts in workforce planning and talent management are calling upon government to respond to this crisis with traditional HR practices that are very tactical in nature, including succession planning, better knowledge management, and more focused recruiting. These efforts are important and necessary, but fail to address the strategic opportunity presented the coming demographic shift. At the most innovative private sector companies, there is rarely a presumption that a departing worker will be replaced with a “like for like” role and talent. Quite the opposite – each open position is treated as a new opportunity to look into the future and hire for anticipated future talent needs.

In a similar way, the coming demographic shift in the public sector presents government executives and HR professionals with several strategic opportunities. Like the private sector, government should be evaluating each position after a retirement to determine if the same type of role is needed in the future. Perhaps taxpayer savings can be realized by not replacing the role, or alternatively the role can be repurposed to address future talent needs. On a wider a scale, large numbers of open positions may create a unique opportunity for agency reorganizations. While dynamic private sector companies are in a near continuous state of reorganization to address dynamic market changes, their counterparts in government agencies remain static for years. Public sector executives should leverage the increased turnover in their agencies to realign their talent against future priorities.

Public sector HR professionals should do what they can to tactically respond to the coming demographic shift in the government workforce, but they also should view it as an opportunity for making strategic changes to address future talent and organization needs. If you have other ideas about how to address turnover among public sector workers of retirement age share them by joining the conversation on twitter at #GovHR.

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