19 Nov Talent shortage? C’mon.
For years, our firm has been touting the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projections: by 2006 two employees will leave the workforce for every new one entering; by 2008, there will be a national shortage of ten million employees.
In an election cycle where both candidates admit job loss, and when off-shoring is becoming de rigueur, these numbers seem over-inflated. Following is an index of the most common arguments I hear refuting BLS statistics, along with my responses.
Argument 1: Baby Boomers cannot afford to retire because their IRA’s took a dump in the early 2000s. Therefore, they won’t be exiting the workforce at BLS’s predicted rates.
Response: The US trend towards early and on-time retirement is recession-proof. Simply put, regardless of the size of a person’s retirement portfolio, folks don’t remain employed any longer than they must. The lure of the golf course and loft-living is magnetic and irrefutable. Further, many companies, in an effort to cut costs, continue to offer attractive early out packages for boomers.
I expect that Baby Boomers will drop out of the “traditional” labor force when their pensions and retirement savings are adequate, and will supplement it with consulting (to their former employer), entrepreneurship, or non-traditional work arrangements like job-sharing, pooling, or part time gigs. That’s very good news, because our economy needs Baby Boomers’ labor force participation and experience.
Argument 2: The Millennial generation is larger than Generation X. As they begin to enter the labor force, they will offset any predicted “talent shortage.”
Response: The Millennial generation is larger than Gen X. Provided we don’t reinstate the draft and send them on a one-way ticket to war, the Millennials will be a larger generation than the X’ers, and will provide a much needed boost for companies in need of entry level employees. But to back-fill the Baby Boomer retirement gap will take years. Even more critically, Baby Boomers are leaving a gap in the C-suite that Millennials will not be ready to fill until their experience and skills warrant it.
Argument 3: Worker productivity is up, so we don’t need as many employees in the workforce.
Response: You’re darn right worker productivity is up. Today, you are doing your work, plus part of someone else’s (former) job. American workers are pushing themselves harder in an effort to hang onto the jobs they have. But it can’t last. This level of productivity is unsustainable; even Sir Alan (Greenspan) says so. And for all the self-congratulations for worker productivity, it’s costing us. Some of America’s most widely swallowed pills are Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft—meds that take the edge of the unsustainable stress of high productivity.
Rebecca Ryan is founder and partner of Next Generation Consulting. She drinks coffee from a mug that says, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Next Generation Consulting is a thinkubator committed to building Next Generation Companies and Communities. Her columns address the work and life trends of today’s young, tech-savvy talent as well as the tools, tricks and tips for those daring hot companies they work with. Please e-mail topics, suggestions and feedback to Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.