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Beating the brain drain

By Beth Wingad

Say hello to the brain drain.

You've got a great team in place. They know their stuff, they've got years of knowledge and experience under their belt, and they could do their roles with their eyes closed. They're indispensable to you. So what happens when they retire?

Well, say hello to the brain drain. 

Catchy name aside, the brain drain is a very real problem

This is all about succession planning (or lack thereof). 

A lot of industries are finding that the 'boomer brain drain' has really started to kick in in the last few years. The baby boomer generation are far more likely to have had 'jobs for life' than their successors, meaning that companies are finding that when their employee who has been with them for 30, 40, or even 50, years retires they're taking with them huge amounts of knowledge and experience.

This becomes a real problem when there's no solid knowledge transfer plan in place. 

Proper planning and preparation prevents...

You probably know how that famous military quote ends. 

Companies need to take the brain drain and succession planning seriously. Planning for transitions before they happen is key, particularly when a lot of the knowledge and skills retiring employees have about their role might be tacit. How often is knowledge kept in someone's head and never written down anywhere?

Having the right team in place pre-retirement and making sure there's a solid process for passing on this knowledge is crucial to making sure the experience and knowledge that's kept things running smoothly for years isn't lost forever. 

Yes, it might feel a bit awkward to hire their replacement before they're out the door, but that shouldn't stop companies doing it. From the exiting employees providing mentoring to new or more junior hires, to using tech to capture the bits that can't be lost, there are ways around the problem. But all of these require proactivity.

Talent planning is the best place to start

The closer senior members of the team inch towards retirement, the more the brain drain becomes a problem. That's why futureproofing in a proactive way is absolutely critical for companies who think they're going to have (or are already having!) this problem. 

Talent planning is a great place to start. By figuring out what roles would add much needed skills to your team, you can then put a solid hiring strategy in place to get them in situ before those who are retiring actually retire. Burying your head in the sand benefits absolutely no one when it comes to the brain drain. 

In fact, one of our most successful long-term partnerships started off by being all about tackling their brain drain problem, helping them to build bench strength and get prepped for the future.

This level of preparation means you'll be able to act quickly, secure the new skills you need exactly when you need them, so when the person retiring walks off into the sunset, the skills and knowledge don't walk off with them. 

Want some help with your succession planning?

We've helped a number of our clients fix their brain drain problem by setting them up with the next-gen talent they need. Want us to do the same for you? Get in touch on