Businesses: Don't toss out our boomers without picking their brains

RENO - Baby boomer employees are a gold mine. Don't let them walk out without picking their brains, a national generational expert said Tuesday.

Or, keep them for as long as you can, said Dr. Carolyn Martin at Directions 2007, one of the region's largest economic forums.

As she looks to hire new employees, 28-year-old Season Lopiccolo said she'll remember this advice.

"The ability to manage different generations in the office, and how the work force is changing is important to me and Noble Studios," said Lopiccolo, who is the Carson City business' operations director.

Employers overwhelmingly identified the limited labor pool as the biggest issue related to hiring, according to the Northern Nevada Economic Outlook Survey. Of the 150 business leaders who responded to the question, 60 percent said their biggest issue was finding qualified employees.

Martin, a principal with Rainmaker Thinking Inc., said this is in line with national concerns that retiring baby boomers will leave a void in the employment pool. Those who are supposed to replace them are fewer in number (since 1990 the 25-44 age group declined from 35 percent to 28 percent), have different work ethics (putting free time and family first) and are less inclined to stay with one company for more than two years.

That's why employers need "knowledge transfer programs," Martin said, which means the older generation passes on business knowledge to its younger co-workers.

In addition to introducing a new phrase into the lexicon of 900 Northern Nevadan business leaders, Martin also recommended a strategy that will occupy local managers for the year. Business dilemmas are identified and then dissected at the annual forum, organized by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

Some of Martin's recommendations:

• Create a go-to list of experts who younger workers can contact when they need immediate information on a customer, project or procedure.

• Create a video library of interviews with the most experienced workers.

• Formalize job shadowing and cross-training opportunities so younger workers can see how it's done.

And some of those aged 50 and up aren't going anywhere, she said. They have the energy to work eight to 10 years past the typical retirement age.

Carson City Manager Linda Ritter said baby boomers delaying retirement or returning to second professions could be a boon for Carson City, known as a popular retirement destination.

"Just here at the city, 25 percent of our employees could retire in the next five years," she said. "And I think she (Martin) gave some sage advise on what we need to do to plan for the future."

Forecasting 2007 concerns

Education funding and the 2007 Legislative session were the top two concerns for 2007, said Chuck Alvey, economic development authority president. Authority members who responded to the annual survey also identified worker shortage and the residential housing market as concerns.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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