Putting the “Shift” in Shift Change

…a Workforce in Motion

by Carolyn Greco, CEO Facet

Many industries in the US market are challenged with the significant concern of balancing the availability of human resources to meet the workforce needs of the future. This phenomenon has been called the “graying” of our workforce, the “big shift change,” and “paying the price” for America’s significant downsizing in the 1980s and 1990s.

There are three key moving parts creating this dilemma:

“Retirement” of the Boomers

First, a word about what ‘retirement’ means now.

According to Pam Venne, Texas’ only Certified Retirement Planning Specialist at Retirement Options, and FACET’s Dallas/Fort Worth Senior Consultant, the ever-changing dynamic of retirement is: By 2014 all of the Boomer Generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – will have reached age 55 and looking at “What’s Next?” in their lives and careers.

Growing up, many of Boomers and Traditionalists (B & T’s) always thought people “should” retire at 55 to 65 to give us young ones a chance and that age 65 was “way old.” Well, now that the B’s & T’s have arrived, most are not ready to give up and don’t consider themselves “way old.”

Boomers were the first generation whose identity was through their work and not their family. Therefore, a number of them are ready to start new careers, ventures or consult; work at least 3-5 days a week; volunteer; mentor; and a wide variety of other endeavors. We can’t imagine ever quitting and have found ways to get paid in money or emotional credits to last as long as our minds and bodies will allow.

And yes, we will still balance this with time with our families and relaxation just like before (only hopefully a bit more balanced)!

How does the Boomer dynamic affect the Shift Change?

Those born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers continue to account for the majority of US employees, particularly in the energy industry with an average age of 50. Most will ‘retire’ in the next 10 years. Many will be enticed to work longer due to their interest in challenging work and/or the highly attractive compensation packages offered to them to keep them and their intellectual capital.

ISSUE: This fix is temporary. We must find ways to transfer their knowledge and experience to the younger generations.

The 35 – 50 Gap

Due to downsizings, rightsizings or similar initiatives over the past three decades, there is a significant gap in many industries. In the oil and gas industry, for example, in 1982 there were over 860,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry; over 500,000 of these jobs were terminated between 1982 and 2000.* The reduction resulted in a gap in middle management and also gave the industry a black-eye, from which it is still recovering. This situation exacerbates the problem of passing forward older employees’ knowledge because there are not enough people at the next level of experience to receive this knowledge.

ISSUE: We must identify and develop individuals with significantly less industry experience and to bring them up to speed much more quickly than in the past.

Lack of Younger Workers Entering an Industry

While those working in any major industry appreciate the amazing technical achievements of the last 30 years, the general public still has a poor perception of many major industries**. This poor perception makes it difficult to recruit, even though entry-level personnel garner high salaries and excellent benefits.

ISSUE: Efforts must be made to recruit more individuals at the university level. Industry groups must work together to make this effort a success.

For example, a group called Engineers to Energy (E2E) included eight oil companies and eight consulting/contract engineering firms in Houston. E2E investigated what is being done by groups in Houston to meet the shortages of engineers in the industry. This group merged into the Greater Houston Partnership STEM Education Committee. There is also recognition in the general education and political community that more needs to be done to support engineering and science. Reports from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, document concerns, provide data to support these issues, and make recommendations for ways the US can make improvements. Recommendations include encouraging younger students to pursue technical degrees, recruiting more science and math teachers, developing existing teacher capabilities, and sustaining and strengthening the US commitment to basic research.

Industry groups are actively encouraging more students at the middle and high school levels, particularly in the US, to choose science and engineering as a career path, so students have enough basic education to be able to take engineering and science courses at the university level. There are similar efforts in the UK and elsewhere. There is no doubt the industry will deal with these issues and will solve personnel recruitment and retention, much as we have solved the many technical obstacles we have overcome in the last 50 years.


A documentary film by award-winning filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin called SHIFT CHANGE, tells the stories of employee-owned businesses that compete successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces.

With the decline in US manufacturing and today’s economic crisis, millions have lost their jobs and many have lost their homes.

The usual economic solutions are not working.

Just as the definition of ‘retirement’ is changing, perhaps the ‘shift’ in ‘shift change’ is as well. Instead of workers changing places, perhaps it is time to reinvent our failing economy in order to restore long-term community stability and a more egalitarian way of life.

*API’s Workforce Challenges Survey, 2005
**Sources: Endeavor Management , OilPro


About facet
FACET is a human resources consulting firm specializing in the four phases of the Talent Management Cycle: Attract, Retain, Develop, and Transition. The Group's practice specifically addresses facilitation of smooth career/life transitions for individuals leaving organizations as well as career management, leadership training and coaching for employees whose assignments within organizations are impacted by change or other organizational needs. By application of several directions of pursuit, the corporation accomplishes a single goal: maximum utilization of human resource potential and productivity through efficient hiring, training and career development. The Facet Group was founded in 1981 and is headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana. As an ARBORA GLOBAL PARTNER, The Facet Group shares a parallel philosophy of the highest quality and standards with other owner invested firms. Through this network, we provide services worldwide. To address organizational needs outlined by its clients, The Facet Group offers a comprehensive package of workplace consulting services, focusing on providing high quality, creative programs which favorably impact the bottom line.

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