Some people who support the calls for “small government” are likely cheering the wave of retirements of senior federal agency employees. This is the wave of Baby Boomers which has been cascading through the years toward retirement with only a brief delay in their departure caused by the uncertainty that came with the recent depression. The federal workforce has gotten older very quickly. In 2000, only 94,000 federal employees were above the age of 60. Twelve years later that figure almost tripled to 262,000. 80,000 of these workers, or about 5% of the entire federal workforce, are expected to exit by the end of this fiscal year. Good news for small government advocates. But, maybe not good news in general when you consider the knowledge and experience that is leaving as well. In her article which appeared in The Washington Post, Lisa Rein writes:
“Among those who are leaving are also many with expertise that cannot easily be replaced: for instance, nuclear physicists at the Energy Department and a large cohort of air traffic controllers who were hired three decades ago. In some corners of government, the challenge is acute. By 2016, 42 percent of the Department of Housing and Urban Development workforce will be eligible to retire.”
The graying of the Federal Government is also happening at businesses on Main Street. Are employers preparing themselves adequately to manage the loss of experience and knowledge? Far too often small businesses overlook basic succession planning – proactively identifying future personnel needs – and the consequences can be quite a serious disruption to on-going operations. Furthermore, business leaders should not let high unemployment levels lull them into a false sense of security. There is no quick and dirty replacement for unique knowledge and years of experience.
What do small businesses do? Have a Plan B. Prepare to prevent disruption. Create a Mini-Succession Plan. Big organizations do this as a rule; so should small business owners. That is, for each employee and position, have answers to these questions:
- “How do we find a replacement?”
- “Where do we find a replacement?”
- “How long will it take to get a replacement?”
- “Who will train the replacement?”
- “Who can fill the position in an emergency?”
If the company has answers to these questions, then great! Likely, many do not. At a minimum, plans should be developed for employees who have retirement time horizons already. Begin the process, and one is well on their way to keeping the company up and running if any employee leaves for whatever reason. Just a tip; review Succession Plans once a year to keep them up-to-date.