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A Different Workforce Boom: Boomers!

By and

Mon Sep 12 2016

A Different Workforce Boom: Boomers!

To prepare for the upcoming webcast, Talent Trends and Challenges in Healthcare, let’s review some significant changing demographics: the graying of the healthcare workforce. The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College states that by 2019, workers 55 and older will become 25 percent of the workforce. In healthcare, by 2020 it is estimated that nearly half of all registered nurses will reach traditional retirement age resulting in workforce shortages. 

Healthcare talent development professionals who proactively address the aging of their workforce today will poise their organizations with a competitive advantage to retain and even recruit talent.


Anticipated Shortage of Healthcare Professionals

This is not a new crisis. In a 2007 nationwide survey, 25 percent of physicians were 60 years or older. Retirement practices as we know—traditional exiting of the workforce—have a significant impact on an organization’s current and future talent pool. This is a cautionary tale for our future. In fact, if the current trends continue as predicted, many health professions will find it difficult to replace the current workforce levels. IOM reports that we will need an extra 3.5 million healthcare providers to maintain the existing ratio of providers to population. This is an estimated 35 percent increase.

Here’s the good news: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the employment prospects for the healthcare industry in the future is strong. Table 1 illustrates current employment statistics for 2014, compared to the projected employment for 2024. 

Occupational Title

Employment 2014

Projected Employment 2024


Home Health Aides




Nursing Assistants and Orderlies




Registered Nurse




Nurse Practitioners




Physician Assistants




Physicians and Surgeons




Medical Assistants




Adopting New Talent Management Practices

Meeting this demand will require innovative talent strategies to attract new workers to the healthcare profession, as well as encouraging the retention of current workers, specifically this mature demographic. Engaging this target audience requires building a promising future for workers with your organization—one that holds value and respects their shifting personal goals.

Just as we must consider how to accommodate the Millennial population, talent development professionals must consider how mature workers learn differently.  Let’s be real: engaging multiple generation workforce adds a level of complexity to how we design and deliver talent development. It requires us to think out of the box, to use a familiar phrase!

Non-Traditional Recruiting and Retaining Strategies

An American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey reports that 80 percent of Baby Boomers plan to work past the traditional retirement age. This is a powerful source of workforce talent. Once a demographic to prepare for exiting the workforce, we must now prepare to retain them. Fortunately, this is the demographic truly aligned to the leadership competency of lifelong learning.


Non-traditional recruiting and retaining strategies by progressive healthcare systems include:

Recruit and Re-Recruit

  • Offer weekend-only  or “peak time” work hours.

  • Transition clinical help into work-at-home opportunities, such as telemetry nurses, nurse-on-call, physician on-call, and triage for hospital transfers.

  • Augment phased retirement with flexible schedules.

  • Recruit “snowbird” nurses and staff as recurring seasonal help with tourist influx.


  • Proactively identify employees who are age 65 and older offer them to receive the same benefits to work up to 24 hours per week as when they are fully retired.

  • Partner with your benefits department to offer employees with at least 10 years of service who are age 59½ or older to begin to draw on their pensions while still working part time.

What Can You Do Now?

Adjusting your talent development and management strategies to attract Baby Boomers age 55 and older who are “becoming the largest untapped source of potential labor in the U.S. economy” (Hatcher, 2006) can begin with a few steps.

  • Conduct a demographic workforce assessment that identifies current and projected skill gaps.

  • Identify one or two capture tactics to transfer knowledge within your existing workforce. (Think mentorship!)

  • Pull a focus group of long tenure employees and challenge them brainstorm “out of the box” value propositions for baby boomers to stay.

For a deeper dive into this issue, join us for the September 15 webcast, Talent Trends and Challenges in Healthcare.


Further Reading

  • Hatcher, B. (2006). Wisdom at work: The importance of the older and experienced nurse in the workplace. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • Heidkamp, M., Mabe, W., & DeGraaf, B. (2012). The public workforce system: Serving older job seekers and the disability implications of an aging workforce. New Brunswick, NJ: NTAR Leadership Center, Rutgers University.

  • Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2008). Retooling for an aging America: Building the health care workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  • Mather, M. (2007). State profiles of the U.S. health care workforce. Paper commissioned by the Committee on the Future Health Care Workforce for Older Americans.

  • Sweet, S., & Pitt-Catsouphes, M., with Besen, E., Hovhannisyan, S., & Pasha, F. (2010). T_alent pressures and the aging workforce: Responsive action steps for the health care and social assistance sector._ Boston: Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College.

  • Tishman, F., Van Looy, S., & Bruyère, S. (2012). Employer strategies for responding to an aging workforce. New Brunswick, NJ: NTAR Leadership Center, Rutgers University.

  • Harrington, L., Heidkamp M. (2013). T_he Aging Workforce: Challenges for the Health Care Industry In Brief_: National Technical Assistance and Research Center

  • Stephen Sweet, PhD and Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD with Elyssa Besen, Shoghik Hovhannisyan, MA, and Farooq Pasha, MA (2010). Talent Pressures and the Aging Workforce: Responsive Action Steps for the Health Care & Social Assistance Sector: The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

  • Rappaport, A., Bancroft, E. & Okum, L. (2003). Workforce Demographics: The aging workforce raises new talent management issues for employers. Global Business and Organizational Excellence, vol 23. Issue 1 pages 55-66.

  • Gilpin, S. (2002). Proactive Policies Can Keep Older Workers on Job Longer. Retrieved: http://www.workforce.com/2002/11/28/proactive-policies-can-keep-older-workers-on-job-longer

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