A Simple Way For HR to Plan for the Retirement Tsunami

A popular topic is the possible tsunami of retirements which could leave our organizations desperately short of talent. It’s a delicious topic because either you’ll be one of the retired sitting on the beach saying “Not my problem,” or else you’ll be rapidly promoted as the organization attempts to fill the vacancies.

But let’s play this one straight and assume that we actually want what’s good for the organization; how can analytics help with retirement? (We will also sneak in how retirement can help with analytics).

A good start for HR is to build a simple model, department by department, on what retirements are likely to occur over the next five years. By simple model I mean something in Excel where you calculate how many people will be eligible for retirement and make a rough estimate of how many will actually leave. If your department has the capability you can do a more sophisticated model; but the point is that even a simple one is useful.

Once you have some data you can have fact-based discussions with each department manager and move them from vague fear of a retirement tsunami to a specific look at what their department is  facing.

To make this exercise even more meaningful, look up the existing attrition rate in those departments and see if the additional attrition due to retirements is a big deal. Get some qualitative data on how good the department is on filling vacancies; that will help calibrate the urgency around whether you have a manageable problem or a problem that will cause serious trouble.

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Analytics, even unsophisticated analytics, turns the conversation from “I fear there will be a major problem in society” to “Here are the facts in the area I can act on, and from those facts I can make reasonable decisions on what to do.” It’s a good use of analytics and you don’t need to wait until you’ve hired a data scientist to do it.

Retirements are good for analytics it two ways. One is that it’s a heck of a good exercise for showing off HR’s ability to tackle a problem with data. The other is that as people retire, make sure you replace some percentage of them with people who have a science background and favor fact over opinion. Perhaps the retirees sitting on the beach will smile because they see their old organization thriving as the youngsters reinvent the world

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought Indeed.com for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.



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