Retiring Baby Boomers: Filling the Void & Attracting Good Employees


For years, the retirement of the baby boom generation has been a large topic of discussion and a looming economic threat. Now, that dreaded time is upon us. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are retiring in droves – to the tune of about 10,000 a day!

Barry Bluestone, Dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, predicted labor shortages of more than 5 million over eight years in an article written in 2010. Even manufacturing, which lost millions of jobs over the last decade, is projected to need 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years, many of them due to retiring workers. The problem is when those workers leave, so do their skills.

Changing Perceptions
Perhaps you are already feeling the pain of losing these skilled workers. While the perception of manufacturing (dirty, challenging, unsafe) is changing by utilizing lean tools like 5S and Visual Management, other ways must be found to attract engaged workers.

Engaging Your Workforce
Workforce engagement can be interpreted as the execution of discretionary effort. It can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organization and its values, plus a willingness to help colleagues. Engagement goes beyond job satisfaction and motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer the employer. Engagement cannot be taught, it cannot be required and it cannot be the single reason for discharge. Casual observation will not necessarily detect a disengaged employee.

Based on workforce engagement survey responses, we know that things like accountability, respect, opportunity, recognition, and communication are critical to creating an engaged workforce. Organizations need to create an environment to attract workers who may be thinking of going elsewhere. Unlike the recession between 2007 and 2009, potential employees have choices. If the same pay and benefits are available down the street, what else does your company have to offer?

Planning for the Future
The message is clear: If you haven’t already begun working on succession planning or you haven’t already begun to look at ways to attract and keep good employees, now is the time. Start with communication and trust. Find ways to involve employees as they are the subject matter experts at what they do. Train properly - from onboarding through on-the-job training by using the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle. Recognize and reward good work. Praise in public and, if necessary, discipline in private. Provide opportunity, and most of all, treat employees with respect. Show what you have to offer and you will be taking steps to solve the Baby Boomer exit crunch!

Contact the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center can help minimize the vulnerability an organization faces when a key leader leaves – whether planned or not. To learn more about MMTC’s Succession Planning Solutions, call 888.414.6682 or email

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at


Categories: Data & Trends, Leadership/Culture, U.S. Manufacturing, workforce