The HR Strategist | Surviving the Talent Exodus

This month’s edition of “The HR Strategist” focuses on creative strategies for surviving the talent exodus. You’ve probably seen the statistics. Ten thousand Americans will turn 65 each year from 2011 until 2030 when all the baby boomers are retired. We know from BLS data that the absolute number of working-age adults (15 – 64) began a cliff dive around the year 2010 and will continue a steep decline until 2030. In fact, the current number of working-age adults is at the same level as 1970, thanks to 49 straight years of below-replacement birth rates in the United States. Those workers you’re looking for aren’t all at home playing video games, many were never born! 

Combined with the overall labor shortage, great resignation, and the reprioritization that kicked into high gear after COVID, we have the ingredients for a potential crisis in our organizations. We simply cannot escape the exodus of knowledge from our workplace that continues to occur. I can’t recall a time in my 30-year career when it was more important to have an active and thoughtful discussion up and down our workforce about succession.

In practice, many companies struggle with the idea of even talking about any kind of succession. The truth is, that many of our key professionals, managers, and leaders are contemplating retirement, or scaling down, whether we like it or not. Yet we have no idea. We are afraid to ask, and they are afraid to tell us. Turning a blind eye seems easier. And then one day we get their two-or three-week notice. What could have been a creative solution to surviving the talent exodus sails away.

Other companies proactively view retiring staff as what I call an “alternative source of talent.” In fact, the best companies don’t let one-hundred-year-old wage and hour laws or outdated company practices get in the way of finding creative [and legal] ways to employ retirees who want to stay engaged, just in a different way. 


1. Start today to find a way to make it easier, not harder, for your retirees to continue contributing to your company’s success. 

Maybe five of them share one job, others become consultants, others work PRN, some work one day a week, some become mentors or coaches, others are paid to build an AI-generated knowledge base, etc. Get creative. 

2. Build a culture where career planning is not just encouraged but embedded into the fabric of your organization. 

Prioritizing career planning empowers employees to take ownership of their growth, leading to higher engagement, increased retention, and a more skilled workforce poised for success. That second source of talent is hiding in your building!

Implementing a career-focused culture starts at the top with leaders who demonstrate a genuine commitment to employee development by actively engaging in career conversations, providing resources for growth, and setting an example through their career progression. We must then regularly communicate this intention throughout the organization, showing the pathways for advancement within the company. Sharing success stories of employees who have advanced their careers through internal opportunities can inspire others to do the same.

The primary tool to use with employees is the Individualized Development Plan (IDP) which outlines each employee’s career goals, strengths, areas for improvement, and action steps for growth. IDPs serve as roadmaps for employees to navigate their career paths, identify development opportunities, and track their progress over time. Managers should review and discuss IDPs with their team members regularly to provide guidance and support.


1. Training and Development Opportunities 

A diverse range of workshops, seminars, online courses, mentoring programs, and job rotations ensure employees have the resources they need to grow and develop in their roles.

2. Performance Feedback and Coaching

Where employees receive regular performance reviews, constructive feedback, and guidance on their career development. Managers should act as mentors and coaches, providing support and encouragement to help employees reach their full potential. Feedback should be specific, actionable, and focused on both strengths and areas for improvement.

3. Career Mobility and Opportunities 

Internal job postings, promotions, and lateral moves. Employees are empowered to pursue new opportunities within the company without fear.

4. Recognition and Rewards 

For employees who demonstrate commitment to their professional development, including promotions, salary increases, bonuses, and public recognition for achievements.

5. A Learning Culture 

A culture of continuous learning and curiosity where employees are encouraged to seek out new challenges, acquire new skills, and innovate in their roles.

We cannot escape the demographic cliff we are on, and for most companies, there is a limit to how much total rewards can be increased. Two sources of capable talent are right in front of us – our current workforce and recent retirees. Getting creative with employing retirees, while also prioritizing career planning and investing in employee development, will help your organization create a more engaged, motivated, and skilled workforce poised for long-term success. 

Try it, and as always if we can help, please reach out!

Written by Catapult’s Chief Solutions Officer, Doug Blizzard, SPHR, SHRM-SCP.