Employers Ambivalent About Baby Boomer Retirement

Firms worry about knowledge drain as older workers leave, but also the high cost of keeping them

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Most employers think that the baby boomers, the oldest of which are just reaching retirement age, are going to stick around in the workforce a few years longer than their parents did. Two thirds of employers (69 percent) say that workers will retire at even older ages than they do today within three to five years, according to a new MetLife and Asset International survey of 240 companies with at least 1,000 employees. The firms believe that their older workers will retire at an average age of 67 in 2014, about four years later than today’s average retirement age of 63. And employers have decidedly mixed feelings about the delayed exodus.

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Many companies (71 percent) say that delayed retirement of their most expensive employees will have a negative impact on the bottom line. About a third of employers also expressed concern that delayed retirement will hinder their ability to innovate. “If older employees don’t retire, younger employees can’t move up the ladder as quickly—potentially causing them to leave the organization and/or putting a cap on the number of new hires that employers could make,” according to the report.

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At the same time, most employers (74 percent) are also concerned about knowledge drain as the most experienced employees leave the workforce. Many companies believe that the retirement of their older workers will have a negative impact on their organization’s productivity (62 percent) and will result in a decline in workplace culture (43 percent). “Once older, productive employees retire, employers may be concerned that the attitudes and values they helped to establish and inculcate may disappear as well,” Metlife found. To manage knowledge drain many employers are considering introducing technology that will help transfer knowledge to younger employees (41 percent), implementing part-time work programs to transition employees into retirement (39 percent) and offering pension benefits to partially retired employees (32 percent).