About 4 million Baby Boomers leave the workforce each year. This is a major concern for business leaders, considering Boomers make up a quarter of the country’s workforce and many hold leadership positions. As some of their most valuable team members transition into retirement, employers are beginning to feel the strain and need to develop a contingency plan.
Not that this comes as a surprise — demographers have long predicted that our current decade would see the number of work-bound Baby Boomers begin to rapidly decline. What business leaders might not have counted on, though, is finding a shortage of new professionals in their industry’s talent pool.
In particular, industries that have seen a rise and fall of success over the past few decades are losing out on a new generation of applicants, thanks to their unfortunate reputation for unsteady employment. This is especially true for large gas and oil companies, which have experienced long periods of feast or famine since the 1940s.
Luckily, there are tools and techniques that can mitigate the loss of retiring workers. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and tailor-made tech solutions can help provide long-term solutions to Baby Boomer brain drain. By applying a liberal dose of technology to your business, you can ease the difficulties caused by this employee exodus.
Use Tech to Do More With Fewer People
It’s not enough to simply replace Baby Boomers with an equal number of brand-new employees. After all, a lot of employee experience, education, and well-honed workflows walk out the door with them. Yet every crisis contains both danger and opportunity. The Baby Boomer outflux offers the chance to use technology to reduce your reliance on human workers by streamlining processes and helping you continuously improve the form and function of your business.
In the utilities industry, for instance, the retiring workforce represents a major problem — and a prime opportunity for improvement. “The shortage of qualified field technicians is causing a major backlog of work that needs to be accomplished,” notes EnSight+ CEO Lee Schwartz. “To counter the lack of human capital, companies can deploy software that will enable them to do more with less.” Schwartz describes how techs who could handle five jobs in a day were, after the implementation of a software solution, able to tackle up to eight in the same amount of time. Using tech to improve your remaining team members’ efficiency will aid in your efforts to combat the productivity loss caused by retiring Boomers.
Use Tech to Store Baby Boomer Knowledge
Tech-enhanced processes are a help, but they can only go so far. Without a sufficient brain dump, you may find yourself chasing information that’s long since walked out the door. And much of this knowledge isn’t missed until it’s gone for good. If you’ve been diligent, you may have your employees’ job duties recorded in comprehensive and well-documented operating procedures. But let’s be realistic: Most modern knowledge transfers amount to a few sparsely recorded steps and some stale email threads.
Fortunately, there’s more to social networking in the workplace than workers wasting time on Facebook. Collaborative tools such as Bloomfire, Zendesk, and Confluence help employees share knowledge with each other (and the company) on platforms that store this knowledge for later use. For instance, Asian Paints, a leading paint company in India, had its sales staff use the company’s internal social network to share best practices and techniques. When a veteran salesperson leaves, his or her knowledge is stored in the platform so the team can retain that historical knowledge, applying past beneficial practices to today’s challenges. When choosing a knowledge management platform for your business, be sure to read the fine print and select a tool that will safely store your digital knowledge and files.
Use Tech to Improve Training for New Employees
Of course, you can’t solve your entire brain drain problem with tech efficiencies and stored knowledge. You’re going to need new employees, and you’ll have to get them up to speed quickly. Good thing, then, that virtual reality can give new hires a leg up. VR helps reduce the high costs of live training and results in a much higher retention rate than traditional training mediums. Walmart, for example, uses Strivr’s VR tools to train employees on everything from dealing with a Black Friday rush to using unfamiliar technologies, and it has seen climbing retention rates and test scores as a result.
In Arizona, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department uses a multiple interaction learning option when training new deputies. Large flat-screen panels are placed around the trainees so they have a 300-degree view of each simulated scene. After the simulation, deputies and their supervisors talk through the exercise. This mimics the continued learning that happens on the job as newer deputies work with more seasoned officers day in and day out. By handling a variety of experiences through simulations, the new deputies don’t have to wait for specific situations to naturally arise on the job to learn from experienced staff. While your new hires are unlikely to face such life-and-death situations, you, too, can use VR training to speed up the transfer of knowledge between your veterans and newbies.
As Baby Boomers exit the workforce, the gap in experience between exiting and entering employees can put companies at risk, and often, the knowledge loss isn’t apparent until it’s too late. But tech solutions can lay the groundwork for better data management, faster training, and more skilled employees — all of which can help you bridge the gap between Baby Boomers and entry-level employees.