Baby Boomers to the Rescue! An Idea Whose Time Has Come …

December 2, 2010 at 12:01 am 15 comments

In these tough economic times, with headlines screaming about scary unemployment numbers, job losses and company belt-tightening, it’s easy to overlook some interesting trends that actually bode well for more senior job-seekers. Oh, of course it is true that there are still record numbers of unemployed workers on the market, and certainly if you, yourself, are out of work … well, it’s hard to not view things through a negative prism. However, one of the best kept secrets in today’s employment market is this simple fact: in general, there are more and more jobs going unfilled due to a growing shortage of qualified candidates!

One piece of evidence I have that illustrates the validity of this fact is that I receive a daily email from generated by a job agent I have set up there. It sends me any new postings for Recruiter positions in my area. The number of new recruiter jobs being listed every day is higher now than at any time in recent memory – and more and more keep appearing! To me, that means only one thing: there are a large number of open jobs out there, and businesses and staffing agencies alike are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill those jobs! Why else would there be a need to hire recruiters? It’s not just that hiring managers are being overly picky (which they are) or that decision-makers are moving the hiring process along slower than ever (which they are.) It’s a talent shortage, plain and simple. One of the reasons behind that fact is a trend involving the aging of the Baby Boomer generation.

For many years in the staffing industry, I’ve been hearing a very interesting and often-repeated statistical analysis of the ever widening gap between the growing talent needs of modern businesses, and the shrinking pool of qualified candidates who could fill those jobs. In 2011, the oldest of the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964)¹ started turning 65. We are now seeing the beginning of a mass retirement movement unprecedented in American history – a radical demographic shift in the makeup of our work force. By 2015, one in five workers will be age 55 or over. All told, there are about 76 million people in that Boomer generation who will, over the next couple of decades, drop out of the work force. Sure, the current economic downturn is causing many Boomers to delay their retirement … but sooner or later they’ll all reach a point where full-time work is no longer an option. By contrast, there are only about 51 million “Generation X’ers” (people born between 1965 and 1976)¹ who could potentially step into all those jobs that the Boomers are retiring from. That leaves a huge talent deficit: at least 25 million fewer potential workers!!! The next group in line – the so-called “Millennials” or “Generation Y’ers” (people born between 1977 and 1998)¹ – number around 75 million … but they are simply too young and inexperienced to step into the senior leadership roles that the Boomers are vacating.

I recently assumed the role of Director of Talent Solutions at a relatively new company called Patina Solutions. Patina is a Professional Services Firm that is poised to take advantage of this talent deficit with a rather unique approach. Patina deploys a portfolio of talent made up of professionals generally over the age of 50 and with 25 or more years of work experience who have retired from their traditional careers but still desire to make a difference and positively impact their respective industries. They are placed in consulting-contract assignments at client companies in a variety of industries. It’s an idea whose time has come … sending Baby Boomers into companies who need senior level talent for things like interim C-Level executive positions, critical management assessments, knowledge transfer, staff training, and high-level project-based work loads. They are the kinds of positions that younger, less experienced people simply cannot do! Patina is a 3-year-old start-up with four offices – Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland and Boston. Their aggressive business plan calls for as many as 25 Patina offices to open in different markets by 2013.

In a way, it’s quite ironic. I’ve already written several articles about how rampant the practice of Age Discrimination is in today’s employment market. [See “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!” or “Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths” or “Are You ‘Overqualified?’ Handling the Age Issue …” for more of my musings on that topic.] However, in light of these new statistical trends and shifting workforce demographics, it’s clear that those same companies who have resisted hiring older workers will be in huge trouble and have critical talent shortages when their own upper managers and executives retire over the next few years. And a company like Patina, which is ahead of the curve in recognizing the tremendous value of the shrinking but still highly employable Boomer workers, will be in the driver’s seat for the decades still ahead of us. It’ll be Baby Boomers to the Rescue!

Many readers have commented to me about the numbers of people in each of the generations quoted in this blog posting. Different sources I’ve seen quote different numbers. Part of the problem is pinning down exactly what years define each group, and there seem to be differing definitions out there for which years constitute Generation X’ers and Y’ers. Using the birth years now shown, I believe the population numbers in this posting are as accurate as possible.

If you are a professional over the age of 50, with 25 or more years of work experience, and you’d like to be considered for Patina Solution’s Portfolio of Talent, click on the Patina Logo below to register:


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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joe Benz  |  December 2, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Michael, as always, an excellent blog!

  • 2. Tom Sigler  |  December 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    You hit that dead on. I joined the metals industry 20 years ago as I saw this back then. Everyone I talked to was entering their 50’s. There were only a handful of 30-40 year olds. Now I am a 40 year old and only see things getting worse. This is what drew me to the metals industry. The United States is in for a big surprise. All of the sudden the new phrase of the day is “succession planning”. It follows the cycle every ten years. With the advancements in technology we can do more with less, but at the same time the less will be moving on…. I feel that this will be why much of our manufacturing and innovation will be moving at even a faster pace overseas. I wish it were different but it is far too obvious to ignore.

    Tom Sigler

  • 3. Dan Alaimo  |  December 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I agree: good blog post. And congrats on the gig with Patina.

    A question: I’ve been hearing about the looming talent shortage for awhile now – even before the current job situation. It was usually in the context of some sort of technical field, like the metals industry referenced by Tom (above), or big IT companies like IBM. What other areas and skills are being impacted, and which ones could a trade magazine editor possibly re-train for in a reasonable period of time?
    Dan Alaimo

    • 4. Michael Spiro  |  December 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm

      That’s a very difficult question to answer. I think the talent deficit will affect all industries across the board, to one degree or another. However, re-training yourself implies that you want to switch careers and pursue a field in which you have little or no prior experience. That’s a huge challenge in and of itself, regardless of the increasing talent deficit. Potential employers almost always look for people with experience in their specific niche. (Read my prior posting, “Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers” for more on that.) Fewer people to compete with in the future may lessen that challenge … but finding a decent job in a brand new field you’ve never worked in before is still going to be an uphill battle.

  • 5. Faith Sheaffer-Polen  |  December 3, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Michael – As a coach working with people in “outplacement” it has always been easily apparent that the bulk of my candidates are over the age of 45. Difficult to say there is no age bias. This is refreshing news for my candidates and for those of us quickly exiting the “ideal” employment age bracket. Thank you for your insight.

  • 6. Barb Dworak  |  December 3, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I believe the talent shortage will also be felt in the manufacturing sector with front line workers. The challenge will be effective training and transfer of working knowledge in very many specialized areas.

  • 7. Cheryl Howard  |  December 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

    The Millenials ARE too inexperienced but they are also cheaper. Thinking only about bottom line fiscals for the year is going to hurt companies long term. I wish I could point out that I might be more seasoned but I still have 25 years of productive work ahead of me. However, they wouldn’t dare bring up age, and I shouldn’t without sounding defensive.

  • 8. Ray Miller  |  December 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

    The shortage of experienced/qualified staff is actually in several areas in which I am familiar, mostly related to heavy equipment, power generation and one job segment that is ALWAYS looking for people, field service engineering and technicians for OEMS.

    I know pump and compressor OEMS willing to pay top dollar but can’t find people.

    I know power transmission service companies turning down contracts because they cannot find high voltage electricians and qualified power engineers.

    There are no new machinists being trained. There is a shortage of certified welders, construction trade unions are struggling to fill appenticeships and on and on.

    In the US our rate of graduating engineers is under 3% of college graduates. In China it is 20%!!

    We need to take on the development of a skilled workforce for many areas.

  • 9. Ed Henkler  |  December 3, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Great thoughts Michael. While clearly a generalization, baby boomers are more likely to take a job for the long haul and have fewer distractions in their life. Coupled with deep experience and potential willingness for creative compensation arrangements, one would assume the hiring focus should shift to more effectively engage this group.

  • 10. JSC  |  December 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    “There but for the grace of God go I.” I’m not even religious! What a terrible unemployment rate for seasoned, competent and eager IT workers who watch their jobs get outsourced to India after training those people on how to do that work. I’m all for the spread of capitalism and a global economy, but this isn’t a case of skimming the best & brightest from India and China. It’s low-bidder pricing in order to win business, resulting in lower quality work. At the start of my career, when I was a mainframe applications programmer, we joked that “there’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.” That’s reality today and if I hadn’t switched to software sales in the mid ’80s, my programming job would have been long gone, well before Y2K. You can read the screams of people in pain all over the blogs of LinkedIn groups concerning mainframes.

    The challenges IT salespeople like me face today is that under-40 sales managers typically won’t hire over-50 subordinates, regardless of that individual contributor’s track record. People are taking double demotions just to have a job — and that’s assuming they resolve the “overqualified” issue. It’s musical chairs with the music being played twice as fast and the chairs being removed two at a time. Most unfortunately, management is focusing on “owning” a less productive employee instead of focusing on producing more quality work with the most competent employee. The ancient, politics-trumps-productivity situation lives on despite the extremes (the ’90s vs. now) of unemployment rates.

  • 11. Charles R. Anderson  |  December 3, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    There are about 80 million Generation Yers, but only about 67% are likely to want to work, making about 54 million workers.

    There are shortages of intelligent and self-motivated people in general. Those specialties that demand years of study by intelligent people are generally very hard to fill with native-born Americans. For a long time, it has just been too easy to make money in finance, marketing, computer, and legal services for many Americans to do the hard work to get advanced degrees in science and engineering. We fill the shortage with foreign born people who have graduated from U.S. colleges and universities, but they often have communication shortcomings. To be sure, that is also a short-coming of native-born Americans in all too many cases.

    A great shortage of metallurgists is developing. Many of them are Baby-Boomers. There are many other technical fields popular in the graduate schools of the late 1960s and the 1970s, whose graduates will soon be retiring.

    • 12. Michael Spiro  |  December 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

      I’ve re-edited the population statistics quoted in this blog, based on my research. (See the addendum at the bottom.) I don’t know where you got that information about only 67% of Gen Y’ers likely to want to work. That sounds like a very subjective piece of data, probably based on some sort of snapshot opinion poll. Even if such a poll is accurate, I would venture to guess that as those young people mature and settle down later in life, that number would change dramatically. Sooner or later most adults need to figure out how to make a living!

  • 13. Norm Patry  |  December 5, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Michael, great post. Thank you. Many of us are members of that boomer segment….and many of us are also members of the under-employed which, as of this writing, is up to 17%. So though we older workers have a lot to offer employers we do, as you say, often face some level of suspicion (understated discrimination) related to our skill level. However, us older workers are consistently known for our dependability, flexibility, and strong work ethic. That needs to be a big part of our brand.
    Thank you.

  • 14. Donna Cusano  |  December 9, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Michael, thoughtful post but I must disagree that there is a ray of hope for the boomers. I don’t see it happening at least here in NY metro. First, regarding job volume, I have some evidence from asking around that a lot of the positions being listed are either for ‘futures’ (a/k/a ‘kick the tires’) or to fulfill ad frequency requirements for bulk rates on the boards. In other words, not real.

    From what I have deduced, employers want to shrink their workforces to fit the reduced economy that we are going to face for the next five years. They are not creating jobs–look at the numbers–due to many factors including the prospect of increased taxation and healthcare. So they are eliminating positions and expanding workload of the remaining ones, or simply shrinking the work to fit a lower market share/expectation/spend. Gen X will fit nicely into this scheme–right age and right experience set at the right time. Tell me if I am wrong, but I do not notice many Gen X-ers without jobs for long. I’m in the mid-boomer cohort, and despite all the expansion in the field, including profile, and consulting work I’ve done in the past 18 months, it’s tough to convince employers to even take a look. There are too many prejudices about age, expectations, health and other misconceptions to overcome, and too short of a time. Our most productive years will be wasted, and that is too bad for us.

    • 15. Michael Spiro  |  December 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

      I’m sure your experience in the job market is frustrating, to say the least. Age discrimination is still a dominant theme out there. However, the growing talent shortage I wrote of is real, and will only increase over time as the boomers slowly but steadily drop out of the market and retire. There may, indeed, be a short-term reduction in job volume going on now due to the economic downturn and fears about taxation and health care costs. But these things are very cyclical, and over time the market will rebound … and the need for experienced talent will certainly increase – not decrease. Yes, the Gen Xer’s are poised for a favorable job market experience – but no matter how things shake out, there are still 25 million fewer of them than there are Boomers. I don’t think modern industries will have 25 million fewer jobs available over the next 10 to 20 years. Quite the opposite — there will most likely be more and more demand for experienced talent … probably in technologies and industries that haven’t even been invented yet. But the raw population numbers are the real story here.


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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