LEADERSHIP MATTERS

BY Antoinette Blunt, MPA, CHRP, SHRP

 

SECURING THE FUTURE

We have long heard the warnings about our aging population and the effects the baby boomer generation’s mass retirement will have on the workforce. And now we are actually beginning to see these predictions play out as the older boomers are reaching their 60s.

Although it may not seem like it now, the economic crisis—which decimated retirement savings for many boomers—will only slow down the workforce gap temporarily. The Conference Board of Canada predicts a shortage of as many as 190,000 workers in Ontario by 2020.

The Ontario government took steps to eliminate the province’s mandatory retirement age and the reality for some—thanks to the recession—is that they simply cannot consider retirement.

So there are masses of baby boomers who will be retiring, but also many who will not, and that creates short-term planning challenges for organizations. In the long term, however, there is no doubt there will be a shortage. After all, the baby boom generation may have begun in the late 1940s but it stretches all the way to 1961. The solution? Plan for the future by ensuring your organization has a strategic human resources plan.

Strategic HR planning involves taking a holistic view of the organization, considering the skill sets needed to achieve long-term goals and the current talent pool, and then developing a plan to meet those goals.

Turnover trends need to be examined—who will be leaving the organization in the next few months, years and in the next decade? Key positions may, at that time, be redesigned so they more accurately fit the new or changing goals of the organization. This applies to positions in both management and on the front lines. If organizations plan in advance, when someone leaves, the right decisions are made for the future of the organization.

Strategic human resources planning is critical to succession planning because with knowledge of the aspirations of employees, HR can steer them in the right direction from a career-development perspective. HR can match employee skills with the skills required for the long term. Where education and training are required, employees can prepare for future opportunities. Given that the younger workforce has a completely different perspective on job loyalty, this is one way to keep some of these young stars. We already know that even with foreign workers coming in, there will be shortages of skilled professionals in coming years. Knowing and understanding that these potential gaps exist is an advantage because we can plan and anticipate how to fill them.

A strategic HR plan can also include discussions with older employees about what the economic downturn is doing to their retirement plans. Balance is key. Organizations want to keep experienced employees, but at the same time, also want to maintain the interest of the young employees that the organization could be in danger of losing.

The most effective HR strategic plan is based upon the strategic plan for the organization as a whole. Without a strategic HR plan, organizations may find they are unprepared for the challenges of an ever-changing workforce.

This article first appeared in the December 2009 issue of HR Professional magazine.

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