Questioning the Big Answers: Richard Atkind and the Effects of the Silver Tsunami

Oct 6, 2008

In this four-part article, we intend to come face-to-face with one of the most talked about threats to our industry on the horizon—what some are calling the Silver Tsunami. We’ve all been warned about what our workforce will look like in the wake of the Boomers’ departure. Some are making careers out of the prediction that this dramatic “mass exodus” will change how recruiting is done and intensify the battle for the top talent among Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials.

In order to get a less-biased idea of what we are facing, we put together a panel of professionals and asked them their thoughts on this subject. This panel is composed of a CEO of a recruitment process supplement company, a highly qualified Boomer and former job seeker, an HR Director for a content management company, and an HR Manager of Talent Development at a major multinational IT staffing company.

Perhaps the light that they shed on this subject will break through the clouds of confusion surrounding the matter and hopefully, offer us some insight on how to engage with candidates, hiring managers, HR leaders, and others influenced by this potential phenomenon.

As recruiters, we are measured against time to fill. In this climate, while our clients are trying to schedule third and fourth interviews with our candidates, they will be somewhere else signing an offer letter.

Whether the proverbial sky is falling or not, we still have to consider our response to the concerns of all of our clients. Do we start strategizing now or do we wait and hope that this foretold “Perfect Storm” turns out to be just another Y2K?

In part 1 of our series, we chat with Richard Atkind, an HR Manager, Resource Development at TAC Worldwide and the 90th most-connected person on LinkedIn. He shares his thoughts on the “phenomenon” below:

Do you believe that this “Silver Tsunami” will bring all of the challenges that are predicted?

RA: The effect of the “Silver Tsunami” isn’t new. It’s been in place since the Y2K period. Look at all the startups that, despite huge amounts of capital, failed due to a lack of seasoned leadership and a seasoned, disciplined workforce. Additional challenges now exist due to the numerous corporate layoffs resulting in a total lack of company-to-employee loyalty and therefore, the existing lack of employee-to-company loyalty.

When you combine these factors, recruiting top talent has become extremely difficult and competitive in what I call a free-agent market. Clients will have to be more reliant on outside recruiters as they keep their infrastructures lean. The challenges already exist.

Regardless of your current opinion on this subject, how do you feel recruiters should respond to this situation if it is actually unavoidable?

RA: Recruiters need to change their ways and be up-to-speed on the most effective sourcing and recruiting techniques such as social networking and blogging. What worked in the past will not work today. Recruiters need to understand the business of their clients.

Recruiters need to educate their clients as to the current state of the market and the need to balance speed with quality. Recruiters need to understand how to communicate the value proposition of their client and vary their pitch depending on the type/generation of candidate. One-size recruiting does not fit all anymore.

What advice would you give to Baby Boomer candidates who have been on the job market for a while now?

RA: Similar to the need for recruiters to come up-to-speed on new sourcing and recruiting techniques, baby boomers also need to come up-to-speed on those same techniques and adapt. The old process of respond to a posting and send in the resume will not work. Although networking always existed as a primary job search techniques, the tactics have changed and baby boomers need to change to compete. Baby boomers also need to adjust their resume and their [pitch] to one of someone who has performed successfully what is expected in the job they seek and not just try to sell themselves based on the seasoned experience.

How do you think the other generations on the job market should handle themselves in this situation?

RA: Those in other generations need to understand the business of the job they seek. They need to show a degree of flexibility in learning to deal with all personalities and generations in the workforce. They need to show that they can think beyond themselves as corporate cultures still require a degree of teamwork and groupthink. I also believe that there are those who need to limit their sense of entitlement and understand that they need to earn respect and learn to give respect.

What role do you think recruiters play in helping their clients make a hiring decision?

RA: Recruiters can help enable their clients in making a hiring decision but they are not making the hiring decisions. Recruiters need to understand their clients’ business. They need to always understand that although they believe that speed and reaction time is crucial, that quality of candidate is the top criteria. Too often recruiters are so concerned about speed, that it becomes their excuse for not seeking out the highest-quality candidates. The biggest thing a recruiter can do is build a track record of being able to attract the top candidates.

What advice do you have for companies that aren’t taking the possibility of this event seriously?

RA: Recruiters can only provide so much advice before deciding whether their investment of time will produce a return. Good recruiters will always find clients willing to buy in to what is needed. Too much time is spent by recruiters trying to convince clients of changing their ways, and those recruiters are not effectively utilizing their strengths. Unfortunately, all I can say to those clients not heeding advice is good luck.