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Surviving the silver tsunami: talent management and the ageing workforce

"To effectively survive the ensuing ‘silver tsunami’, companies must effectively manage a multi-generational workforce, protect institutional knowledge, and establish a robust workforce capability management system."

Ian Kristic, PA talent management expert

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As a ‘silver tsunami’ of baby boomers moves into retirement, organisations in every sector are losing institutional knowledge and capabilities. Yet, although the challenge of the ageing workforce has been an issue for the last decade, it continues to be either completely ignored or considered an unsolvable problem.

To leverage the strengths of all generations in the workforce – Millennials, Generation Y, Generation X and Baby Boomers – companies must deploy talent management approaches that help different generations work together effectively. They must also ensure that intellectual capital is effectively transferred from the ageing workforce to younger generations.

Businesses should focus talent management efforts on three fronts to protect the institutional knowledge and capabilities on which they depend.

Meet the needs of different generations in the workforce

Companies must recognise that different generations have different learning and working styles. To get the best from a multi-generation workforce, they must:

Build a culture to foster continuous learning and innovation.
• allow an open, flexible career development system
• incentivise and reward continuous learning behaviours.

Use a variety of learning interventions
• provide a comprehensive and diverse training curriculum, and mentoring and       coaching opportunities
• leverage e-learning technologies and blended learning as an option.

Enhance usability of technology systems
• enhance technology applications by leveraging user-centric design concepts
• upgrade legacy applications to support modern business intelligence
• utilise sophisticated technology solutions to enable increased automation.

PA has worked with clients to define and shape organisational cultures that support continuous learning and provide their multi-generational workforce with cutting-edge, business relevant, and technologically-enabled learning and development solutions.

Establish a capability management system

A capability management system is a core element of succession planning. It identifies the key knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to execute business strategy and requires businesses to: 

• define the talent requirements in line with business strategy
• assess critical competencies and the capacity of current workforce
• identify existing attrition risks and the gap between talent demand and supply
• specify and mitigate specific risks.

PA has worked with clients’ executive teams to define the talent strategy and capabilities required to successfully execute business strategies. We have partnered with HR practitioners and executives to define talent needs, identify talent management solutions and then implement those solutions.

Manage knowledge effectively

To prevent knowledge walking out the door as members of the ageing workforce retire, effective succession planning ensures employees who succeed those leaving or retiring have the skills, ability and knowledge to perform the job.

Organisations can help preserve critical institutional knowledge by taking these steps:

Create a culture of sharing knowledge and learning, as a matter of practice
• put the tools (ie a knowledge management system) in place to support the exchange of information
• create communities of practice around specific topics to expand the number of subject matter experts
• encourage reverse mentoring to develop capabilities that will be needed in the future
• documenting key processes and information to avoid ‘single points of failure’ where one individual or piece of data is the sole source

Implement a clear and consistent process through: 
• starting the process early to ensure plenty of transition time
• selling the benefits of engaging in the process to the knowledge holder and the knowledge receiver – make it clear what’s in it for them. 

To find out how PA can help your organisation to develop expertise in talent management, please contact us now

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