Not "OK, Boomer"
Six coping strategies when your seasoned workers start retiring
As the master of machining the tricky part of a spoon where the handle meets the bowl, Toby Leonard has been integral to the success of Liberty Tabletop, the last remaining maker of flatware in America. But Leonard is nearly 70 years old and would like to retire, so his singular command of the “grade roll” also poses a dilemma for Sherrill Manufacturing, the company that makes Liberty Tabletop.
“This is not something you can just go down to the local vocational college and learn,” says CEO Greg Owens. “It’s a particular skill involving automation that is unique to our factory.” So far, Owens has prevailed upon Leonard to keep coming to the plant in Sherrill, New York, at least two days a week. Not only does Leonard need to keep turning spoons, but the he’s also still training his two successors.
Welcome to the flip side of a prosperous U.S. economy, where baby boomers are feeling comfortable retiring from their long-time employers in droves. Yet, CEOs simply can’t afford to let some of these people go, especially at a time of general labor scarcity. Or, if they do, companies face a greater need than ever to absorb the vital knowledge of processes and procedures, hack improvisation and institutional memory that retirees otherwise simply would take out the door with them.
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