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More than ever, talent management is a delicate balancing act

Posted November 28, 2017

By Michael Henckel, associate editor, J. J. Keller & Associates

For some time, many employers have been concerned about the impending exodus of their Baby Boomer workforce. Employers know the difficulties that will follow as these employees’ skills and years of invaluable experience go with them into retirement, since neither could be quickly replaced.

However, with the rising cost of health care, doubts over the size of their 401(k) savings, and the questioned stability of other retirement nest eggs, many would-be retirees today aren’t sure whether they can afford to retire. As a result, many Baby Boomers have taken a detour on the road to retirement and have put their plans to leave the workforce on hold.

Patience is a virtue

Patience from all employees is going to be an important factor not only in day-to-day interactions, but in a long-term corporate strategy. As experienced workers hope to hang on to their current role long enough to comfortably retire, younger generations of workers are looking to advance their careers – possibly into the positions that the Baby Boomers are still holding.

The continued presence of Baby Boomers in the workforce, however, doesn’t mean succession planning must come to a standstill. As multigenerational employees work side-by-side, an employer can use that time as an opportunity to transfer the knowledge of the experienced workers to the younger workforce. Through cross-training and mentoring relationships, high-potential employees may be more easily identified. Once high-potential employees are identified, mapping out a career path with them may increase employee retention and engagement, turning what may have seemed like a road block into a route for upward mobility.

Employers also need to be patient. Even though plans for employee advancement may be temporarily bottlenecked, suggesting to aging workers that they should retire could be viewed as forcing them to leave before they are ready. Intentional or not, age bias is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects individuals age 40 and over.

There are circumstances when an employer may let go of older employees – termination might result due to poor performance or a reduction in force. However, age cannot be the determining factor for who is retained and who is let go, and employees should not be coerced into retiring.

Making a smooth transition

As veteran employees do become ready to take the exit for retirement, they may not be ready to fully retire. At that point, talk with them about a smooth transition to retirement, possibly through part-time positions or flexible work arrangements. This can allow a natural and valuable transition period for the company, as well. Some employers offer early retirement programs, but allowing flexibility may create opportunities to promote younger workers without the cost incentives to retiring employees. In the meantime, high-potential individuals identified in a succession plan should have gained more experience and should be able to more confidently step into their planned roles.

About the author:

Michael Henckel

Michael Henckel is an associate editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by human resources and corporate professionals. Henckel specializes in topics such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, employee classification, and compensation. He is the author of J. J. Keller’s FSLA Essentials guidance manual. For more information, visit and