The number one
social issue of the next decade will be Americas adjustment to an
aging society. The ever-young HR Doctor predicts this issue will
increase in volume and complexity on the national scene, eclipsing
and intertwining with issues of race, gender and relations between
people of different religious affiliations, education, and the
issue of aging demographics can be found all of these other social
and economic forces shaping our future. The great HR Director
Hawkeye Pierce was asked by a MASH colleague to name his favorite
book. Hawkeye replied that it was the dictionary. Why? Because it
had all of the other books inside it! The same can be said of what
will be our increasing focus on aging.
certainly a subject for employment and workforce planning, but it
also goes much farther and deeper in our social fabric. It will
relate to technology and science, community planning, law
enforcement, recreation, social services and, yes, of coursehealth
care. In short, it will be a pervasive and defining subject for
every public administrator in every public agency!
As with most
other matters in a civil society, it will be local government, not
the feds, which must create the engagement opportunities with local
private industry to make the biggest difference. The federal
government will certainly play a great and certainly, the
loudestrole in the determination of our future in a world that will
look more and more like many a quiet Florida neighborhood.
government will have the ability, the pulpit, and the financial
incentive power to present and help shape the issues. However, when
all is said and done, local governments, and especially counties,
will innovate and implement.
Get ready for
what is coming, colleagues! Dont wait to be run over by a crowd of
active and not so active senior citizens! First some statements to
help demonstrate the scope of the emerging issue.
The number of
persons over 65 in the country increased by a factor of 11 during
the 20th century. One in eight Americans is over age 65 today. That
will change to one in five when the beautiful HR daughters
Within a decade
a huge exodus from public service will occur as the careers of the
baby boomers (sorry, I tried not to use that phrase!) wind down.
In my parents World War II era, two people collected Social
Security benefits for every one hundred contributing to the system.
By 1999, the ratio of recipients to contributors changed to thirty
for every one hundred. A projected fifty-four for every hundred will
receive benefits when my HR grandchildren are at their career peaks!
workplace, we already find the Four Generation Workforce,
described by the HR Doctor in a previous article (visit
www.hrdr.net). This is the time for agencies to do workforce
planning and begin the Human Resources adjustments to benefits,
employee orientation, retirement systems, and health care to
anticipate these changes. Assess the recruitment and retention needs
facing the organization and apply the neglected concepts of
succession planning and mentoring to ensure that the departure of
seasoned leaders can be celebrated, not mourned.
workplace policies that permit phased retirements, such as a shift
to three days of work per week with a prorated pension benefit. In
effect, a part-time pension.
the concept of retirement itself is changing. People of a variety of
ages are now qualifying for pensions but have no intention of not
working. People are leaving careers and launching another based on
long-held passions for particular subjects or endeavors. Others will
find that they will continue to work into their 80s, perhaps as much
out of economic necessity as out of the need for socialization the
need to stay connected.
including the local government workplace of the next decade will
be virtual as much as made of brick and mortar. Employees will
demand and will receive much greater schedule flexibility, including
part-time, telecommuting and distance work.
and others for that matter will be increasingly technologically
enabled. They will demand public agencies deliver services at the
clients convenience, not just at the organizations
The HR Doctor
sees a public service world ahead in which the sign reading
your convenience, our office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
will be a
exhibition in the Museum of Public Service Relics (I wonder if there
is a federal grant available for such a museum?).
There is little
reason why a citizen of any age, but especially of an advanced age
where physical mobility may be generally more challenged, should not
be able to renew auto tags, reserve a park picnic site, select a
meals on wheels lunch, pay a parking ticket, etc. at 2 a.m. from
their living room! There is less and less reason why the business
office providing many of these services cannot be outsourced to an
agency employee telecommuting from home, or to a private
organization somewhere far away from the clients home city or
county for that matter.
This kind of
workplace and workforce transformation is very much a part of how
our society will need to respond to what lies ahead in public
enable the disabled, extend life spans, and improve life options.
These realities will cost the society and each citizen more money,
change the way we spend our time and add to our inventory of risks
service needs to develop strategic plan components focusing on how
the services will migrate to a more senior-focused basis. There is
simply no choice but to either plan for these demographic realities
or react to them. Government serves best when it plans ahead and
prepares strategically. Unfortunately, many services simply lurch
forward, focusing on nothing more strategic than the next meeting of
the governing body or the individuals date of vesting in the
few and brave readers of the HR Doctor articles will recall a
recently published articles called Buenos Dias, Yall discussing
adjustments needed in a multi-language society. Public service ahead
will be paying attention to senõrs as well as seniors. There is
simply no choice if the civil society we prize is to remain
senior-focused nation cannot be served well by lurching
administrators. This new chapter in our nations evolution will be
successfully written by nimble and flexible administrators who
thoughtfully prepare public service changes in advance, listen to
the trends as well as the current voices in the community and become
champions of making local government better tomorrow than it was