It is a phenomenon that is referred to with a catchy rhyme: “the brain drain.” Older workers are leaving companies, taking their experience and knowledge with them. And, for various reasons, the reservoir is not being refilled at the same rate. Knowledge leaves, and the tank threatens to go dry.
This need not be the case. There are plenty of good brains still around in people of all ages. However, decision-makers in U.S. industry must adjust to changing demographics, and soon, or there will be serious repercussions. For example, industry leaders need to examine policies regarding the retirement, or early retirement, of baby boomers, and to learn how to attract a new generation of workers. This article will offer an overview of the issue and will suggest some methods for replenishing the “brain drain.”
The “brain drain” has already advanced rapidly enough to short-circuit productivity at many companies. The negative results can be particularly acute in plant maintenance and operations departments.
To cite just one example, in a paper mill, older employees were encouraged to take early retirement. Cutting back on personnel, especially those who had reached high-level salaries, seemed like a quick way to save money in a downturn. But machine failures began to spike. Downtime was more expensive than the downturn had been. And nobody on-site knew how to fix the problems.