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Impact of Baby Boomers' Retirement

By Dr. P K Joy 

A major human resources problem needing industry leaders’ urgent attention 

Retirement of construction executives born in the Baby Boomers Era (1946-64), taking away with them the much-needed and not-so-easily replaceable hands-on experience, conventional knowledge, multidisciplinary skills, and traits of personal commitment that they gained in the developmental stages of the industry, is posing a major problem to human resources (HR) planners in the construction industry.

This problem is more in the construction industry than in others because the possibility to automate and digitize the operations is less in construction than in others, and the former still depends largely on human resources. When it comes to manual operations, the above-mentioned human attributes are keys to efficiency and overall success of projects. As a class, the baby boomers are known to possess these qualities because of their privileged upbringing under the newly introduced lavish post-war government subsidies. Besides, the wide spread construction projects in the infrastructural and industrial sectors gave them great opportunities to learn and become proficient in jobs, both in the fields and at the offices. In the years that followed, the executives were amply rewarded for their contributions and the industry enjoyed the fruits of the boomers’ contributions. In this mutually satisfying situation, the employers should have foreseen the retirement of the boomers and planned for their succession, ensuring the transfer of their rich knowledge, experience and skills to a new generation. This succession planning does not appear to have happened to the desired extent, as a result of which the boomers’ retirement is leaving huge un-bridged gaps in HR strengths of many employers.

Better late than never, the industry leaders are well advised to take the following urgent steps to reduce the ill-effects:

  • Employ handpicked successors as the boomers’ understudy on a fast track career path, with a well-designed grooming program monitored by the HR department and the CEO/President themselves;
  • For a few years before retirement, use the boomers as part-time hands-on trainers and faculty members in the internal training institute, its meaningful happening being ensured by the top management;
  • Ensure that ever-enlarging delegation with adequate checks and controls are there as important components of the corporate culture of every employer.

If the time now available to effectively implement the above steps is too short, then give an extension of service to selected boomers.

- Dr. P K Joy, a senior member of the IIE, is a multi-disciplinary consultant and an author. He can be visited at www.pkjoypoet.com and reached at thejoys40@yahoo.com.

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