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The Pressures of Talent Management—Issue Brief

by Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Stephen Sweet, and Kathy Lynch, with Elizabeth Whalley

October 2009—With millions of Baby Boomers poised to age out of the workforce, US companies remain unprepared for an imminent talent drain that threatens to alter the national economy, according to a new report by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

Nearly 70% of the almost 700 organizations surveyed do not yet know how old their workers are or how many are likely to retire. Forty percent reported that the aging of the workforce will have a detrimental impact on their businesses by 2012.

“The out-migration of a generation of workers will upset the entire balance of the workplace,” said co-author Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the Sloan Center on Aging & Work. “US companies need to start planning strategically for workforce sustainability. The current abundance of older worker talent and experience is going to dry up, and businesses will very soon need to fill hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.”

The report—The Pressures of Talent Management—examined talent management practices at 696 organizations representing the 10 leading sectors of the economy. The companies studied employ more than one million workers combined and represent businesses that account for roughly 85% of the jobs and payrolls in the US.

Additional key findings include:

  • 77% of employers surveyed had not analyzed projected employee retirement rates or assessed employee career plans.
  • 56% of these businesses had not assessed the skills their organizations need today and in the future.
  • About one-third of employers reported not having enough programs for recruitment or training of older workers.

While the impacts may vary, the long-predicted workforce reduction has generated surprisingly limited responses. In 2000, Baby Boomers represented the largest portion the U.S. labor force, at 48% By 2010, they’re projected to shrink to 37% of the workforce, leading some economists predict a shortage of 10-15 million workers in the coming decade.

“Workforce planning is simply good business sense,” said researcher Stephen Sweet. “Changing age demographics doesn’t have to disrupt a business—it may present new opportunities or competitive advantages. Employers should take advantage of programs designed to meet the evolving needs of employees nearing retirement, while at the same time meeting business needs by keeping experienced talent longer and ensuring business continuity.”

» Read more findings in The Pressures of Talent Management—Issue Brief

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