Prepare yourself for a changing workforce

Feb. 8, 2013
Mike Bacidore says workforce demographics are about to shift.

We can all use a little change. Change is good.

Isn’t it?

For decades, we’ve been warned of the mass exodus of the Baby Boom generation from the workforce. More than 75 million American children were born between 1945 and 1964 — what’s traditionally considered the Boomer range. The setbacks of financial markets a few years back forced many of them to continue working, but here’s the spoiler alert: Everyone retires eventually. And an incredible pool of knowledge will likely fade into the sunset with the Baby Boomers.

Mike Bacidore has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or [email protected] or check out his .
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Should we worry where the new workforce will come from? With the great infusion of automation into manufacturing and assembly processes, is a group of highly skilled employees even necessary any more? According to “The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing,” a joint report from Deloitte (www.deloitte.com) and the Manufacturing Institute (www.themanufacturinginstitute.org), the top workforce-related factors that companies consider when setting strategic policy are long-term workforce planning and labor costs. The survey polled more than 1,100 U.S. executives at companies of various sizes in a range of industries.

The coming loss of experienced workers is top of mind with these executives. Employing a highly skilled flexible workforce is their top concern, given the change in the economy and business environment, according to the survey. The workforce segments most affected by the aging workforce and anticipated retirements aren’t necessarily surprising, but they are still worthy of mention, just in case you haven’t been paying attention. Three-quarters of the executives participating in the survey said skilled production — machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, and technicians — will be most impacted by retiring workers. And even more (80%) said hiring skilled production will be their biggest challenge. But how much skilled production do we need? Is it really that important?

Companies indicated the operational areas in which they experienced the most difficulty due to workforce shortage and employee skills deficiency are, first, maintaining production levels and, second, maintaining quality levels that are consistent with customer demand. The last time I checked, those were a couple of pretty important pieces to the profitability puzzle.

So, what are organizations doing to stem the flow of expertise out the doors, or at least reduce the hemorrhaging? Many are keeping on older workers in part-time roles and using them to train younger employees. Other companies are relocating to areas where educational and research facilities provide a deeper pool of highly skilled and qualified workforce candidates. Maybe your organization has some innovative ideas you’d like to share.

Regardless of the solution, change is coming. Are you ready?