IBM sees gold in boomer exodus

September 28, 2005|By JON VAN

The coming exodus of baby boomers into retirement may draw down the nation's Social Security coffers and overload its golf courses, but to International Business Machines Corp. it looks like a gold mine.

IBM plans to announce today an initiative to help enterprises cope with brain drain as large waves of employees near retirement.

"Aging population will be one of the major social and business issues of the 21st Century," said Mary Sue Rogers, an executive with IBM's human capital management group. "The scale of this age-driven change will alter the way work and knowledge are managed."

The firm will supply software programs, consulting and technological fixes intended to help businesses understand how vulnerable they are to the exodus and how to manage it.

The problem isn't limited to the United States, said Connie Moore, an analyst with Forrester Research. "It's really a Northern Hemisphere problem," she said. "In Europe, where you have an aging population that's declining, the problem is magnified. Helping companies cope with this really represents a huge opportunity."

Government and businesses that are highly regulated are vulnerable to boomer exodus, Moore said, and "companies that didn't downsize but rather implemented hiring freezes may be especially vulnerable."

IBM sees the graying work force as a chance to expand its services to companies. The new practice is aimed at expanding opportunities with current clients as well as a tool to recruit new clients, said Eric Lesser, an associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Computer programs that analyze a company's personnel database can help a firm understand how many employees are likely to retire in the next few years, he said. It can also determine whether the firm risks losing institutional knowledge in critical areas.

Jon Van writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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