Retention is an important and ongoing issue. It is a problem requiring a solution by means of innovative strategies. Problem of baby boomers will continue to face businesses in the future. Baby boomers businesses want to retain will be in short supply and always have alternatives. As companies develop their own plans and programs to increase their ability to retain the older managerial or professional employees they want to keep, the three factors of identifying who they want to keep, quantifying costs, and assigning responsibility, will help the companies concentrate on the essential things.
What strategies are companies using to retain and engage baby boomers? HRPAO has taken the traditional “fix.” Study conducted by Armstrong-Stassen and Templer (2006) surveys employers on retention initiatives. Their survey indicates that the most common employee retention program is tuition reimbursement, followed by eldercare provisions such as unpaid leave, and then competitive pay (Table 2). Only 3,5% percent found educating managers about effective ways to utilize older professional employees to be an effective way to improve retention (Table 2). And alternative work arrangements for baby boomers are problematic at best.
That is not to say that companies are not trying to be innovative when it comes to traditional strategies. In terms of retention, companies are making efforts to be more strategic and innovative in how they work out the structure of reward programs, focusing on such tactics as (Towers Perrin, 2004):
- Segmenting the workforce by functions and individuals;
- Designing customized reward programs for these groups;
- Introducing more variable pay into the reward mix.
Innovative strategies are subject to change somewhat from country to country, influenced to a degree by country-specific laws and organizational culture. For instance, the major method for retaining older employees in India has been the traditional one: wage increases (Deming, 1993).
On the whole, traditional HR programs often miss their mark when it comes to retention of baby boomers. Walker Information examined employees in 32 countries and came to conclusion the factors that most influence commitment are integrity, care and concern for older employees, and reliance on managers (Walker, 2000), components most influenced by one’s direct leader or supervisor. So while HR managers rely on the more traditional HR strategies such as compensation, commitment seems to be observed on a more personal level, and subject to positive attitude of one’s manager.
According to Frank, Finnegan, and Taylor (2004), companies benefit when they actively support development and career opportunities of baby boomers. They receive profits from both the increased ability to achieve results and the ability to retain the professional employees they want to keep. The authors suggest organizations gather feedback from multiple sources and follow the following stages in preparing innovative programs:
Gather data, analyze, and evaluate.
Identify impact on the company of further development of skills.
Consider worker’s interests.
Consider prospects to utilize skills.
Select two or three skills to plan to develop initially.
Describe the selected skills as behaviors.
The company should consider why it is where it is. As it moves to the practical sphere and begins to act, there are three essential steps:
- Identify professional employees the company wants to keep. Suppose it does not need to keep all of its current baby boomers. How does it identify the ones to focus attention on?
- Understand the cost of losing older managerial or professional employees. Cost needed to replace a professional employee is high. What are those costs and what are the still higher costs of replacing the professionals the company wants to retain?
- Assign position of being responsible for action. HR manager cannot increase company’s ability to retain employees without someone taking well-considered, thoughtful actions. Who is responsible for those steps and how does HR manager decide who should?
Identify Employees We Want to Keep
Who are those professional employees the company wants to retain? They are the ones who have “skills” and are individuals who “contribute.” They are the employees who make a difference to: the company, customers, other employees, shareholders/boards/constituents.
These professionals demonstrate (Walker, 2000):
- Breadth as well as depth of technical/functional knowledge.
- Customer service.
- Continuous learning.
- Commitment to the company’s success.
These employees of considerable importance are not concentrated at the top of the company. They are distributed throughout, at the frontline, in the back room, and they also occupy the positions of leader. These employees are persons who represent customer service, are accountants, nurses, clerks, and program coordinators. The older employees the company wants to keep differ from others with the same job title. They are known by their talents and valuable experience.
They may be customer service representatives having good listening qualities who identify what is essential and necessary for the customer and then use good organizational skills and experience to respond to those needs. They may be the administrative managers who can change behavior and conditions according to multiple priorities, maintain good relationships with a large group of people, and continue to produce good results on time despite repeated problems.