“The only real security a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability”
The term “Brain Drain” was originally used to describe knowledge loss in underdeveloped countries as scientists and business leaders migrated to developed countries in hopes of a brighter future.
Brain drain has also come to refer to the loss, as retirees leave the workforce, “of decades of accumulated organizational knowledge…and key information about customers or practices that could be devastating to organizations.” (Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa, 2009)
Today, according to AARP’s magazine, The New Retirement, 75 million Baby Boomers, representing about 40 percent of the U.S. labor force, are reaching retirement age. The magazine reports that about one third of those workers can’t afford to retire, about one third might leave their current jobs, in search of something new, and that remaining third, roughly 25 million workers, will be exiting the workforce. These retirees are likely to be the highest paid, most experienced members of any organization. Not only will the C-suite empty, but key personnel from industry, will also do what the cartoon shows, carry their knowledge and experience out the door.
Different Kinds of Knowledge, Different Kinds of Job-Specific Skills
- Knowledge can include in-depth understanding of a thing, such as a manufactured product or a trust fund,
- Knowledge and skills can concern relationships, with customers or of all aspects of the supply chain.
- Knowledge is also intuitive, it is reasoning, anticipation, gut instinct, and that “feeling.“
- Skills loss can be directly connected to a specific job or trade, such as welding or operating trains.
- Skills loss can include the soft skills of human interactions: salesmanship, professionalism, proficiency in English, and business ethics.
Do Baby Boomers have a monopoly on knowledge and skills? No…and Yes. Because there were so many of them, Baby Boomers were forced to compete for everything. Competition forced an entire, huge generation to strive for success, therefore naturally becoming knowledge and skill holders. Only now, when so many are retiring are we feeling the full impact of this generation’s contribution to America’s workforce.
“With their departure, [from the workforce] the work characteristics that define the Baby Boomer generation – results-driven, ambitious, idealistic, competitive, optimistic, and people-oriented – may be lost. unless companies creatively develop strategies to simultaneously retain older workers and transition their knowledge to younger workers.” (Morton, Foster & Sedlar) .