21 Jul

The Retirement Tsunami – It is REAL and it is COMING… Is Your Agency Ready? Part I


It is no secret. For many years now, human capital analysts have been predicting a large-scale “tidal wave” of retirements as baby boomers leave civil service.

Flip on Federal News Radio or catch-up on the latest blogs and you will hear and read that retirement separations have been increasing steadily since 2012.

Thankfully, retirement separations have not reached tsunami levels (yet), but it does beg the question, “when is the boom coming?” This concern is top-of-mind for many HR executives and industry experts.

The answer to that question is complex and deeply depends on many internal and external factors:

  • Post 9/11 mission personalization and dedication remains strong in federal service
  • People are generally choosing to work more years than historically worked
  • Sequestration, furloughs, and pay freezes have negatively affected employment satisfaction and engagement levels
  • Economic uncertainty over the last several years has precluded many retirement eligible civilians from opting to retire
  • Increase in private sector jobs could lure away seasoned civilians

Predicting retirement is like catching smoke. One can never be too sure, but you must enact plans now to maintain competent leadership at all levels to successfully execute your mission.

What preparations should my agency be making now?

  1. Know your human capital data and leverage it as key inputs to workforce planning and development.

Your HR organization should proactively analyze your agency’s human capital data to identify trends in demographic data, retirement eligibility, and separations. This analysis should feed into and inform your workforce plans.

  1. Ensure robust strategic workforce planning programs are in place.

Leadership and functional/technical competencies must be documented and used as part of employee development programs. Agency-wide competency assessments should be completed biennially to baseline gaps. Workforce development, recruitment, and retention strategies must be executed to close gaps. Focus should be on making continual improvements that occur over time.

  1. Earn your agency’s confidence as a trusted strategic workforce partner.

In today’s post-HR Transformation era, the HR division must provide value beyond operationally focused outcomes. HR executives must establish a branch within their division that serves as the agency’s strategic workforce partner. They must be integrated with senior leadership to ensure evolving mission-to-manpower requirements are met. When human capital changes are implemented, this branch engages leadership at all levels (e.g. senior, frontline) to make changes “stick”.

But wait… What about succession planning?

Over the years, experience has taught me that without making the three preparations that I have referenced above, your desires and aspirations to implement a formal succession plan may be short-lived.

Here’s why…

  • Data availability and analytics are paramount to better decision making.
  • Understanding workforce skill gaps is imperative to understanding where you are going when implementing strategic workforce programs and how you know you have successfully moved the proverbial bar.
  • Having a branch in HR that is solely dedicated to serving your agency as a strategic workforce partner will undoubtedly boost your division’s credibility and elevate your levels of success.

Stay tuned for two additional follow-on blog posts that will complete this series. Stay tuned for more tips and guidance on how to implement succession planning at your federal agency!

By the way… If you like this story, please visit our full blog at blog.sreinc.us where you will find many useful posts on all of our capability areas.

Photo Credit: Ben Salter – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_salter/

Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant who possesses deep functional expertise in the areas of human capital strategy and talent management. Joe leads large-scale, transformative programs for commercial and government clients that deliver enduring value and bring to life the vision of executive leadership.

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