The Talent Gap

I participated in two events over the last ten days which had a significant impact on me. The first event was a presentation given by Tom Stinson, Minnesota State Economist and Tom Gillaspy, Minnesota State Demographer at a Human Resources Executive Forum event. Their presentation focused on the fact that our workforce has aged and the number of workers turning 62 over the next three years will be significant. With the number of projected retirees and the slow down in labor force growth there will be a gap in talent available to fill open jobs. They reported that in 2008, Minnesota experienced a 30% increase in workers turning 62. Does that mean that 30% of the current jobs will be vacant over the next 3-5 years? Well not exactly. In some fields like retail, construction and manufacturing many of the jobs will not be replaced or have already been lost. Yet in fields of business, engineering and sciences there is projected growth as well as replacement jobs that will need to be filled. If there isn’t enough talent to fill the positions then will we all just have to work harder? I don’t think this is what workers have in mind.




A few days later I was standing in front of a group of 100 job seekers at 7:30 in the morning talking about ageism in the hiring process. Is it real? You bet. Can those 50 years and older manage this obstacle? Yes, by strongly communicating the skills they bring, the value they add, and demonstrating an ability to be continuous learners. These experienced workers are critical to the success of organizations in the future. Work teams that have representation from different generations can bring different perspectives to innovation and decision making. So if we know that there is this gap in people and talent to fill our jobs then why are employers so willing to dismiss these experienced workers?

 Employer may be applying old stereotypes and taking short sighted view. This approach may result in employers losing critical intellectual capacity, experience and increase the time it takes to get results. Organizations should be thinking about ways they can both attract new people but at the same time retain the talent they have. Recruiting and retaining talent is going to require flexibility from both the job seeker and the employer to figure out how each person can continue to bring their best to the workplace. Boomers and veterans may not want to continue to play leadership roles but might be very willing to contribute in a reduced capacity. I have seen some organizations use reverse mentoring to allow younger generations to mentor older generations on new technology or methodology and older generations mentor the younger generations on how to function in a professional environment. Employers are going to need to be creative to keep all generations engaged and both attract and retain talent. It’s my belief that employers who can focus on hiring people with the skills and work style they need in spite of age will have the best opportunity to fill the talent gap in the coming years.


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