Thursday, November 30, 2006


Work Will Intensify As Baby Boomers Retire

Eleven percent of the current workforce - most of them "baby boomers" - are expected to retire from American corporations in the next two years. According to Deloitte Consulting, just 51 percent of companies are aware of this impending labor shortage, and only 35 percent are taking actions to prepare for it. "The problem looks quite significant," says Deloitte's Tim Phoenix. "Companies understand the numbers of it, but the vast majority...haven't decided what to do about it." The labor shortage is expected to greatly intensify the work experience of those who remain on the job. Another Deloitte researcher asserts, "We need them to work harder than ever before, we need them to work faster than ever before, and we need them to work better together than ever before."

How far can American workers be pushed? The article at the link below reminds us that "white-collar workers in Asia are literally working themselves to death. Employees have been dying on the job of exhaustion, heart attacks and strokes after working sixteen-hour days." Can that happen here? I hope not.

HR professionals are concerned that increased work pressures could stifle productivity. One solution is to "bend up" the worker supply curve. This would entail more aggressive recruitment, better analysis of the deployment of "critical talent", and the willingness to move employees more readily from one job to another within the company so they'll be available wherever they are needed. Technological innovations may also soften the impact of the labor shortage.

Insisting that the coming labor shortage "will be bigger than any we've seen since World War II," the Deloitte researchers emphasize that work intensification is inevitable, and that companies must do what they can to reduce the pressure on their employees. Employers can reduce workplace stress by eliminating excess noise and interruptions, improving interpersonal communication, and giving their employees more flexibility - not just in terms of their work schedules, but also in terms of their potential for growth and mobility within the company.

Corporations should also strive to retain older employees, and to make the transfer of their knowledge to younger employees more gradual and mutually beneficial. One novel challenge that many companies will face is that of coordinating communication across a wider spectrum of age groups. Indeed, the corporations of the future may need to revert to the archetypal bond between the wise old shaman and the eager young acolyte that has been with us since we dwelt in caves. All things, it seems, eventually come full circle.

"Preparing for a skills shortage, work intensification" from Benefit News

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