IBM, ASTD Study Reveals Critical Gaps In Changing Workforce Demographics As Baby Boomers Retire

ARMONK, NY and ALEXANDRIA, VA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- Oct 04, 2006 -- A study unveiled today by IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) reveals that while global organizations recognize the looming workforce demographic shift, far too few have taken action to meet the challenges, either by addressing the retirement of baby boomers, or streamlining the learning curve for new employees. Learning leaders and their teams are uniquely positioned to lead the way in bridging the gap between awareness and action, yet only 16 percent of organizations have made changing workforce demographic considerations a priority in their learning strategies.

The study surveyed more than 240 global learning executives on issues including the impact of changing workforce demographics on their organizations, approaches to knowledge transfer, perceptions of learning preferences among workers of different generations, and barriers to learning. The study builds upon IBM's leadership in insights and solutions to help organizations navigate the challenges and opportunities of the multi-generational workforce, and IBM and ASTD's joint research into the role of learning in organizational success.

Public, private and not-for-profit (including government) organizations across eight industry sectors in North America, South America, Asia-Pacific, and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) responded to the study, which was carried out online in June-July, 2006. Over 70 percent of respondents were learning executives or professionals, with the balance including HR executives, and senior management outside of the learning function.

"IBM has taken the lead in bringing the issue of the multi-generational workforce to the forefront," noted Eric Lesser, Associate Partner, IBM Institute for Business Value. "Our research has clearly demonstrated that C-level and human capital executives recognize the impact that changing workforce demographics will have on their organizations. This new study delves into the learning function to determine its current and potential role in managing the workforce shifts that organizations around the world will experience in the forthcoming months and years. What we've found are significant gaps between learning executives' recognition of the challenge, and their belief that they and their organizations are addressing it effectively."

"Learning executives identified knowledge transfer, removing barriers to learning for mature workers, and meeting the needs of the next generation of employees as their greatest challenges related to changing workforce demographics," said Ray Rivera, Director, Workplace Learning and Performance Scorecard, ASTD Research. "Yet, less than half think their organizations are doing enough to tackle these challenges, and only about 40 percent believe their companies are addressing their overall skill and capacity needs over the next three to five years. These findings suggest that many organizations remain unprepared for workforce shifts of potentially 'tectonic' magnitude."

Among the study's specific findings:

--  Over 80 percent of learning executives believe that changing workforce
    demographics will have a notable influence on their organizations, yet only
    46 percent of learning executives report their organizations are doing
    either a "good" or "excellent" job in addressing demographic shifts.
--  Learning executives are keenly aware of the need to preserve and
    transfer critical knowledge before employees retire or leave an
    organization for other reasons. Yet, while organizations are making strides
    in areas such as mentoring and knowledge repositories, less than one-third
    incorporate knowledge transfer into traditional learning programs.
    Recruiting mature workers to deliver classroom content, fostering
    communities of practice, and capturing and embedding knowledge into
    existing learning programs are among the practices organizations are under-
    utilizing. Virtually no companies, only about 2 percent, are using
    multimedia, such as audio/video interviews, to capture knowledge and
    insights from retiring employees.
--  Over one-third of organizations believe that mature workers
    participate in learning activities less than younger workers, and that
    older workers encounter more barriers in participating in learning
--  Learning leaders are concerned about streamlining the learning curve
    for new employees, not only as they replace older workers, but in
    organizations with rapid growth, especially in emerging economies such as
    China and India. Rapid "on-boarding" is taking on new priority as
    demographic shifts gather steam.
Based on these findings, IBM and ASTD see five key action steps for learning executives:
--  Work with HR and line-of-business leaders to increase awareness and
    visibility of changing workforce demographic issues.
--  Develop a knowledge transfer strategy to address high-value knowledge
    at risk in the organization.
--  Consider learner preferences as an input into a larger training
    delivery strategy.
--  Identify relevant opportunities for mature workers to take part in
    learning activities, including non-traditional learning experiences.
--  Focus on reducing the cycle time and increasing the effectiveness of
    on-boarding and management development efforts.
More information about the IBM/ASTD Changing Workforce Demographics and the Learning Function study may found at

About ASTD

ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) is the world's largest association dedicated to workplace learning and performance professionals. ASTD's members come from more than 100 countries and connect locally in 140 U.S. chapters and 24 Global Networks. Members work in thousands of organizations of all sizes, in government, as independent consultants, and suppliers.

ASTD started in 1944 when the organization held its first annual conference. ASTD has widened the profession's focus to link learning and performance to individual and organizational results, and is a sought-after voice on critical public policy issues. For more information, visit

About IBM

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