56 HR MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2018
ewport News Shipbuilding is facing
some harsh business realities. Its
workforce is made up mainly of two
key demographics: highly skilled Baby
Boomers with valuable experience—
but an eye toward retirement—and
a younger set of workers who have
promise but often don’t stick around
long enough to master the art of
building nuclear submarines and
About half of the company’s 22,000 employees are over the
age of 50, and 30 percent are eligible to retire within the next
;ve years. “That’s sobering,” says Susan Jacobs, vice presi-
dent of human resources and administration for Newport
News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Indus-
tries, based in Newport News, Va. “We needed to get more
serious about it.”
This year, the company is initiating a formal program to
entice experienced workers to mentor younger employees
and pass along knowledge gleaned over their lengthy careers.
Informal methods of transferring knowledge have been in
place for years, but company leaders wanted to develop a
more deliberate approach. Being able to document processes
and procedures is crucial to the business’s future success.
“You can’t learn shipbuilding at school,” Jacobs says, noting
that fostering personal connections between employees at
all levels may have the added bene;t of lowering attrition
among younger workers.
Newport News is hardly the only organization facing a
“brain drain,” as an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers leave the
workforce each day. The exodus is forcing many companies
to devise strategies to help employees retire while ensuring
that operations don’t su;er as a result.
HEADING FOR THE EXITS E nsuring the stability of the business and guiding employ- ees toward retirement is a complicated endeavor for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that retirement is a taboo topic in many workplaces. Managers often
dread bringing it up for fear of being perceived as ageist. And
employees are loath to ask about it because they don’t want to
be seen as just biding their time until they can leave.
“This is not a subject people want to talk about,” says Catherine Collinson, president and chief executive of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and the Transamerica
Research bears this out. Almost half of 1,802 employers
that responded to the 17th annual Transamerica Retirement
Survey said they realize that their employees want options
A HISTORY OF EMPLOYER;BASED RETIREMENT IN THE U.S.
SOCIAL SECURITY ACT
OF 1935 AIMS TO AID
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
signs the Social Security Act on Aug.
14, 1935, to provide retirees ages 65
and older with income after they stop
working. The law is intended to help
elderly people living in poverty due
to the Great Depression.
VIE W an online
timeline of the history
retirement in the U. S.