The Demographic Imperative

After studying the issue for a full year, researchers at The Concours Group came to the alarming but irrefutable conclusion that U.S. companies are on a collision course with their demographic destiny.

As more baby boomers approach retirement age, companies are facing a shortfall of at least 10 million workers by 2010. Still, few employers are working to recruit and/or retain older talent.

The reason? "It's the old boiling frog dilemma, where there's a dangerous acceptance of slow-moving trends," says Concours research director Bob Morison, alluding to the well-known experiment in which frogs subjected to slowly increasing water temperature failed to notice the change in time to save themselves.

"Demographics move at the speed of life, so the problems accumulate slowly," he says. "There's no crisis yet, and crises are what govern the economics at a lot of companies."

Concours' goal, Morison says, is to "sound the alarm without being alarmist."

Specifically, he says companies need to address the following seven challenges if they are to minimize the negative impact of a graying workforce:

  • Recruiting young workers.
  • Keeping midcareer workers engaged.
  • Transcending age bias to leverage the expertise of older workers.
  • Embracing flexible work arrangements.
  • Identifying and filling skills gaps and mastering training challenges.
  • Aligning compensation and benefits.
  • Anticipating demographically driven labor shortages.

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