Beating the Brain Drain: States Focus on Retaining Older Workers; Finding Replacements Won’t Be Easy
California has a problem: Fifty-two percent of its managers in the state workforce could decide in the next five years that they're tired of working, grab their retirement packages and go. Their departure would create a serious brain drain for the state, which has the largest number of state employees in the country — 220,000.
So Jeff Douglas, California's chief of workforce development, is trying different tactics to keep senior workers on the job: offering a flexible work schedule, promoting work-life balance and creating the first government-wide employee management survey to assess the needs of workers. The idea is to find out who is leaving — and why.
State and Local Plans Logo for Boston College's Center for Retirement Research
Douglas knows that efforts to keep senior workers — especially managers, specialists, and highly educated and knowledgeable employees — on the job are at best stopgap measures. Eventually, the state will have to shore up its talent reserves as baby boomers age out of the state workforce. "Because people can walk right now, we have to be ready if they do," he said.
Like California, nearly every state and locality faces the imminent departure of retirement-eligible employees. Anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of state workers are eligible for retirement, said Leslie Scott, executive director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE). And states are scrambling to find ways to retain their most valuable seasoned employees.
Finding replacements won’t be easy. State employees are more educated than the rest of the nation's workforce, including federal and local government employees, according to the Congressional Research Service.
So state personnel executives are experimenting with a variety of approaches to hang on to experience, including job-sharing and telecommuting, delayed retirement programs that pay lump sums to would-be retirees to keep working, training and development, and reward and recognition programs. They also are stepping up recruiting efforts to attract older employees who work in the private sector.
The idea, Douglas said, is to create a work environment "where you can stay longer and work longer."
In Tennessee, where 32 percent of the state workforce is eligible for retirement, state workers can take advantage of the "temporary employment option." The program allows retirees to work for up to 120 days during a 12-month period. This way, the state can "recruit" high-performing retirees to assist with special projects, said Rebecca Hunter, the state's commissioner of human resources.
"This allows an agency to benefit from the transfer of institutional knowledge and is a nice transition to full retirement for the employee," Hunter said.
In Ohio, state workers in the Office of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities are allowed to schedule their work hours as they see fit, as long as they work somewhere between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In Colorado, where 20 percent of the workforce in the state's information technology division is eligible for retirement, the agency encourages retirement-age professionals to work with younger workers to ensure that knowledge is passed down to the next generation.
This is particularly important when it comes to dealing with older, "legacy" technology and other specialized fields, said Karen Wilcox, director of human resources in the Colorado governor's information technology office."
In Virginia, where a quarter of state employees will be eligible to retire in the next five years, state human resources executives use "intense data" to predict who will be retiring and what is pushing them out, said Sara Redding Wilson, Virginia's director of human resources.
"Only a small fraction is going, and we know why," Redding Wilson said. Armed with data, she said, the state can tailor its retention efforts — while finding ways to recruit the next wave of talent.
The areas with the highest turnover rates are in corrections, juvenile justice and behavioral health, Redding Wilson said, fields with less flexibility in scheduling and that don't pay as much.
Some states, such as Alabama and Arizona, and some localities, such as Los Angeles, Pinellas County, Florida, and St. Louis, let potential retirees take advantage of the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). It works this way: public workers — such as police officers — who reach retirement age commit to continuing to work for a fixed period. They go on collecting their regular paycheck. And when they retire, they are paid a lump sum bonus of as much as 90 percent of the salaries they earned while continuing to work.
DROP programs can be an attractive incentive to keep talented employees on the job longer, while reducing costs for recruiting and training new employees, said Angela Curl, assistant professor of family studies and social work at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
But not all states have kept them going. In 2001, Missouri implemented a similar program, called BackDROP, which offered state workers more flexibility in the start and stop dates. (Roughly a quarter of Missouri’s state employees are eligible to retire this year.)
Pages: 1 · 2
- With a Daily Dial, Police Reach Out to Seniors; Automated Telephone Reassurance Systems Began Nearly Three Decades Ago
- Strong Sisters: "When the going gets rough, they know I'm not the weak sister"
- Sheriffs Still Looking for Clarity on Deportation
- Stream Protection Rule ... Passed and Overturned in a Few Weeks .... Sad
- A Conundrum: Preserving Fertility When It Is Threatened By Life-Saving Medicine
- Janet Yellen Speaks at a Teachers Town Hall Meeting; The Gender Gap in Economics and the Leaky Pipeline Problem
- Buzz Polinator Endanged: Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Could Be Lost Due to Habitat Loss and Degradation
- Researchers Warn of Financial Risks in Retirement Jobs: Rethink Those SSA Benefit Calculations
- Oldest Adults May Have Much to Gain from Social Technology: Feeling Less Lonely, More Satisfied and Physically Fit
- Thinking Thankful: The Pings to the Heart