Employers unprepared for retiring boomers: survey

One-quarter of employers expect up to 20 per cent of workforce to retire in five years

While many Canadian employers face retirement levels of 20 per cent or more over the next five years, most admit that they are not fully prepared to deal with this important issue, according to a new survey by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

Canada’s aging boomer employees, born between 1946 and 1961, account for close to one-third of the country's 32 million people, according to Statistics Canada, and this group is at the threshold of retirement age. Statistics Canada says the numbers of retirement-aged Canadians in the workforce will continue to increase — in less than 10 years, one in five people in the workforce will be aged 55 to 64.

The survey, Are Canadian Firms Prepared for the Boomer Exodus from the Workforce?, asked 627 HR professionals across Canada how their organizations are preparing for the coming retirement of baby boomers.

It found just 14 per cent of respondents are fully prepared for the "coming talent shortage" that will result from the aging workforce and 60 per cent said they are only "somewhat prepared."

“We are surprised to see that not many HR professionals have given boomer retirement the attention it may deserve,” said Claude Balthazard director of HR excellence for the Toronto-based HRPA. “In order to maintain their economic health, organizations must develop replacement strategies to address this growing issue.”

Highlights from the survey:

•26 per cent of employers said they expect up to 20 per cent of their workforce to retire in the next five years

•15 per cent of firms said up to 30 per cent of their staff will hit retirement age within five years

•8 per cent of companies said they expect up to 40 per cent of their workforce to retire during the coming five years

•23 per cent of companies admitted to being “poorly prepared.”

Companies with retirement-focused programs, such as phased-in retirement and retirement lifestyle coaching, will have the advantage as the talent shortage intensifies, said Suzanne Armstrong, president of Life’s Next Steps, a Toronto-based company that delivers educational workshops to companies and older employees on effective retirement action plans.

“Many boomers obviously want to continue working in some way, to remain active and engaged or due to financial concerns,” Armstrong.

“HR has an opportunity right now to take the lead in creating programs that help boomers plan for a different kind of retirement, and that encourage good employees to stay involved in the workforce in ways that are practical and flexible. It can be a win-win for employees and organizations. But employers need to act now to create initiatives and incentives aimed at keeping some of these excellent employees on the job in some way.”

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