New Approaches to Human Resource Forecasting in the Public Sector: Learn More about What Government Agencies Are Exploring in the Way of Innovations in Retirement, Telecommuting, Security, and Training to Recognize and Use Older Workers as a Resource
Gram, Joanne, The Public Manager
Early retirement and a graying workforce have created concerns for public sector human resource managers. Increased longevity and wellness have combined with the lifelong learning process to create a workforce that is available to contribute for many years beyond traditional retirement age. A new focus on retention of valued employees can provide positive transitions for new workers and customers. This article predicts future innovations in retirement, telecommuting, security, and training to recognize and use older workers as a resource. Related issues of recruitment, measurement, project management, and compensation are also considered.
The Way We Were
Retirement from public service once involved closing an office for a two-hour celebration at a local restaurant. A retiree was teased with reminders of past goofs and glories. A gift was given--and sometimes a plaque. For many, the age of 65 marked the graduation from the workplace to plans for a life of leisure. Social Security, Medicare, pensions, and individual retirement accounts were expected to provide for the next (often the last) 10 years of life.
Budget reductions stimulated the early retirement process at many levels of government. Agencies believed a smaller workforce would relieve the financial strain. Workers between 40 and 50 years of age could not ignore incentives to retire. In some agencies, workers could buy service years to complete a retirement formula. Retirement parties became monthly treat days held in the office. When six people retired in July, snacks appeared in a break room on the second Thursday. Retirees discussed job searches in the private sector or in other public areas.
Offices lost more workers than anticipated. Through lack of foresight at least one city, Michigan's capital, lost elected officials including a mayor. Paying retirement benefits was not as cost effective as anticipated. Remaining workers were too few or too new to provide the same level of customer service. A number of workers also were nearing traditional retirement age. Human resource managers were pressed to do more with less while keeping pace with technology and competing with the private sector for badly needed talent.
Restructuring in the State of Michigan
Retirements, budget cuts, and a hiring freeze are the focus of restructuring efforts in most State of Michigan agencies. Early in 2003, many bureaus were eliminated or merged with other bureaus. Reduction in service is critical where systems depend on consistent resources. The closing of many regional human service offices and extended waits on automated telephone systems have the attention of the media. For example, child-support payments automatically paid through payroll deduction are not reaching custodial parents. Columnists for the Lansing State Journal confirmed that the Friend of the Court recently asked participants to be patient while child-support payments are delayed for months. A participant who bypasses the system and pays another directly risks prosecution as a "deadbeat parent."
In August 2000, the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging published Older Americans 2000: Key Indicators of Well-Being. The report projects the "baby boom" generation will begin to turn 65 in the year 2011. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics discovered the fastest growing part of the United States' population is individuals aged 85 years and older. They have been labeled the "older old." For "baby boomers" born between 1945 and 1964, there will be a challenge to maintain a desired retirement lifestyle.
The Partnership for Public Service projects that in the next few years, over half of the federal workforce may qualify for retirement. Within the same period, 71 percent of federal government managers will reach traditional retirement age.
Where Do We Go From Here? …