Technology Lessens the Burden of the Federal Retirement Tsunami

Originally posted on TechSource by Dan Klanderman

We’ve seen it coming for years, and in fact, planned on this disruption to the federal workforce. Yet, the federal retirement tsunami is still causing a disturbance in federal agencies, as a large population of federal employees reach retirement age concurrently.

Nearly 9,000 retirement claims were filed in the month of August alone, according to this article by Federal News Radio. And it could not be happening at a worse time. The federal government is currently enforcing a hiring freeze for agencies and battling budget deficits across the board.

Luckily, today’s advanced IT solutions can help the federal government overcome the workforce and human resource problems created by the “retirement tsunami.”

For many agencies, the biggest problem with the wave of retirements is the vacuum it leaves behind in the organization. The loss of a large number of managers and senior leaders takes a significant toll on both leadership and productivity within the agency.

But what if these individuals could be convinced to stay on a part-time basis, or stick around long enough to help recruit and train their replacements? Enabling these employees to telework could entice them to do just that.

By utilizing cloud, virtual desktop and video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions, federal agencies can make a teleworking employee as effective as an employee working from the office. Through face-to-face communications from remote locations, agencies can entice retiring employees to stick around by allowing them to work from home without the hassle and inconvenience of commuting into the office. Even if only part time, or long enough to help get their replacements up to speed, keeping the existing workforce around the agency in some capacity can help to spread out the massive wave of retirements.

Even teleworking employees can’t stick around forever, and agencies will eventually need to replace them. This creates a situation where the federal government, which has historically struggled with recruitment and retention, needs to recruit new employees quickly and keep them on staff. Empowering telework and workplace flexibility through IT adoption could be helpful in recruiting and retaining talent.

Workplace flexibility is becoming an increasingly attractive – if not expected – perk for new employees entering the workforce. With many private enterprises already offering employees flexible office environments, the government needs to do the same to compete for the top talent of today and tomorrow. Telework also enables agencies to cast a wider net for talent, since individuals far away from agency headquarters and branch offices can still effectively work for the agency without having to relocate. The convenience of workplace flexibility gives employees another reason to think twice about leaving for other positions, improving employee retention at agencies.

But what if all of this fails, the “retirement tsunami” comes and agencies are left with a devastated workforce? Well, IT solutions and telework can still help agencies hit the hardest tread water and keep themselves afloat.

Teleworking employees are proven to be more productive. By eliminating commutes and enabling employees to work where and when they’re most effective, government agencies can increase the productivity of the employees that they do have. This makes each remaining resource more effective and better able to handle the increased workload that results from a workforce stretched thin by retirements.

However, the “retirement tsunami” may not be all bad. Should agencies be able to weather the storm, some positives could result.

As I discussed in a previous blog post, one of the largest challenges to implementing workplace flexibility is often combating the incumbent culture. While there is no doubt that our elder statesmen and stateswomen have contributed greatly during their careers, attracting new talent and promoting new leaders familiar with the current mission and challenges plays a part in developing new ideas and fresh perspectives. This next generation of public sector employees will help to define how they work and how technology enables that work.

The “retirement tsunami” is no longer a doomsday fable for government agencies. The wave is approaching the shore and threatening Washington at a time when outside challenges and budgetary concerns will make it difficult to overcome. However, through implementation of IT solutions that drive workplace mobility and increase productivity, the federal government can weather the “retirement tsunami” and come out stronger in the end.

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