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Most of the attention on the Silver Tsunami is focused on the great retirement wave, the impact on the economy, social security, and on health care.  There are indeed many issues that will arise due to this demographic shift.  Not only are people living longer, though, many are choosing to work longer.  This will create several dynamics in the workplace.  First of all, it will preserve experience and valuable knowledge in the systems.  At the same time, it will prolong the shift of culture from the Baby Boomer's into the subsequent generations.

For a short time, possibly compounded by the tendency of people to retire later in life now, we will see all 4 generations in the workplace. Depending on each organization's unique profile, this may create some generation skipping in the senior levels, as Boomer's move out to be replaced by Millennials.

The silver tsunami has some obvious impacts.  The population is aging at the same rate, and the curve approaching retirement is large.  There are some other less obvious impacts as well.  One of the big one is in the area of how today's companies are led and how the employees are engaged.

The management and business practices in the U.S. largely reflect the culture of the boomer generations.  These practices approach change in a linear and controlled fashion.  They treat leaders with more positional authority and rely little on personal authority.  They control communications carefully and collaborate by exception rather than by default.

These practices work in more stable environments, particularly when the cultural blend is fairly homogeneous.  We have every reason to expect these conditions to change dramatically.

Some other effects we will likely see:

  • Generation skipping in critical leadership successions
  • Four generations in the workplace
  • Domino effects of retirement across the pipeline
  • Increased poaching rates to fill critical jobs
  • Higher turn-over rates in the mid level management as people manage their own careers more actively.

While it is unclear exactly what it will mean, it will most certainly have an impact of broad cultural change in the business world.

You may be interested in our Fast Forwarding Future Leadership workshop as well.  Click here for more information.


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