Baby Boomer Brain Drain: How to Plan for Knowledge-Sharing

October 27, 2016

Baby Boomers are starting to exit the workforce. Start planning for knowledge transfer and mentoring opportunities to set your company up for success.

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Workers’ institutional knowledge and experience are often the key to an employee’s —and therefore a company’s — success. So, what happens when a significant portion of that workforce retires?

Ten thousand Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day, and their exit from the workforce is being dubbed the Baby Boomer Brain Drain.

Now’s the time for your company to plan for helping younger workers soak up the knowledge and experience Boomers have accumulated during their years on the job.

“When a business forgets how things are done, it hurts profitability,” writes Eric F. Frazier for

Here are four tips for dealing with Boomers’ eventual exodus from your company’s workforce.

1. Evaluate both your highest risks and future needs.

 Some divisions of your company may rely more heavily on employees who plan to retire. You’ll also want to factor in areas of growth and profitability when thinking about how to develop a strategy for dealing with retirements.

“Identify employees who pose the greatest retirement risk and prioritize succession planning efforts by weighing such factors as which positions will be most important to future business needs, what knowledge will be lost with a given employee, which positions could be filled by internal talent and how your labor market may affect cost and timing,” Frazier writes.

2. Connect those retiring soon with younger future leaders

 In programs either simple or more nuanced, create opportunities for your current leaders to guide those who will follow them.

This could be in the form of a mentoring program. Seventy-five percent of Millennial employees want a mentor, according to an infographic created by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and more than half have already turned to Baby Boomer employees for help.

Creating better communication among generational groups will only help, writes Rex Huppke for The Chicago Tribune.

“Put simply, the greener employees can’t feel afraid to admit that there’s something they don’t know, and the veterans need to be willing to share what they do know,” he writes.

3. Keep working at it.

The last Baby Boomers will turn 65 in 2029, and many will keep working after that milestone. The brain drain challenge continues, which offers ample opportunities for businesses to try different strategies and change course, if needed.

“Boomer retirements will continue for years, and strategic workforce planning is an ongoing process, not a project you complete,” Frazier writes.

Companies should build in metrics and measurements to evaluate what’s successful, and continue looking for opportunities to allow Boomers to share their expertise.

“Knowledge transfer can’t be viewed as a one-and-done problem,” Huppke writes. “It requires study and evaluation, and a willingness to acknowledge when something isn’t working.”

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