It is finally happening – federal employees, Boomers to be exact, are finally feeling ready to leave their government jobs. It is predicted that approximately 80,000 are set to retire by the end of the fiscal year, according to the Office of Personnel Management. This number is expected to increase as we move on and the Boomers age; more than a third of federal workers are eligible to retire by 2016 – 3 out of 5 will be at the executive level.
Some of the reasons they are giving include financial freezing of their wages and retirement accounts, furloughs and low morale. This number is impacting executive levels as their knowledge and experience is also walking out the door. While this signals good news for younger workers, some positions will not be easy to replace due to required experience levels, such as air traffic controllers or those in research positions, which often takes years to acquire.
It seems that the economic downturn forced many to stay in their jobs, who would have been otherwise gone; but it doesn’t seem that there has been a good succession plan in place to prepare for this exodus, as it was going to happen eventually as time moved on. Some interventions that some governmental agencies are doing and which can be an example for organizations to begin considering and planning for, as they will also be impacted, are to offer the career lattice that I have previously discussed, which is offering workers the opportunity to get trained and experienced in several different skill-sets and work areas, another is training and mentoring opportunities, while another is to have a phase-out policy, where an executive could retire but continue working part-time with partial compensation for which they would mentor and train their successors.
This problem is not going to get better as the last of the Boomers are not going to reach age 65 until 2030. I think our younger workforce is ready to move into those positions but need developed in the skills that will fully enable them to do the job well. It will be interesting to see how this will impact our federal agencies – take one other lesson from these agencies and don’t wait to develop and put in place a succession plan today.