Is Your Local Government Ready for the Silver Tsunami?

Written by Jessica Marabella

The Silver Tsunami is coming. Experts predict that as many as 40 percent of baby boomers are set to retire from public sector service in the next few years, and they threaten to take their knowledge, experience, and commitment with them. Do you have a strategy in place to recruit and onboard the next generation of municipal employees?

What is the Silver Tsunami?

Baby Boomers are rapidly reaching retirement age, with approximately 10,000 people nationwide turning 65 every single day. In fact, by the year 2020, for the first time in U.S. history, the number of Baby Boomers will surpass the number of children five years of age or younger, and by the year 2030, the population of adults over the age of 65 is expected to double. Given this unparalleled and unstoppable surge toward retirement of valuable tenured employees, local governments must proactively put a plan in place begin hiring and onboarding the next generation of local government employees before knowledge transfer opportunities are gone.

The Impact of the Silver Tsunami on Local Governments

Experts believe that local governments may face the biggest and most devastating brunt of this seismic workforce composition shift for a few reasons:

  • Many local government workers who postponed their retirement in the aftermath of the “Great Recession” are now moving forward with their plans. In 2012, 46 percent halted their retirement, while in 2016 that number dropped to 21 percent—and the numbers are expected to continue declining in the years ahead.
  • 54 percent of local governments reported an increase in retirements between 2014 and 2015.
  • Between 30 and 40 percent of local government workers are currently eligible for retirement, including many who are not technically part of the Baby Boom demographic cohort yet, but have nevertheless earned a sizeable pension after a few decades of service that started in their twenties.

The Impact of the Silver Tsunami on Local Government Administrations

Eighty percent of organizations say they lose experience, institutional knowledge, and leadership when an older worker leaves.  Many local government jobs are specialized and have high barriers to entry, such as education, certification, and training. Also, the loss of valuable employees can negatively impact remaining staff. Stressed and overworked employees who are desperately trying to “hold the line” until reinforcements arrive and receive necessary training cannot consistently produce high-quality work. If too stressed for too long, some valuable employees may seek opportunities elsewhere.

Turning the Tide

The Silver Tsunami has arrived, and will only grow more complex and challenging as the years unfold. However, local governments should not brace for impact and hope for the best. Instead, they must turn the tide so that instead of mitigating the damage, they are exploiting an opportunity to take their organization and its workforce to another level. Here are five proactive and practical human resources strategies that can help local governments prepare for the retirement of tenured employees and the hiring of younger generations.


A demographic profile lists the ages, roles, and skills of all workers. Once completed, it can be used to answer critical questions such as the age of your administration’s talent pool and which positions and teams have more workers who are approaching retirement age?


A sub-document that typically develops from the previously described demographic profile is a list of essential positions. These roles are vital to the organization’s future success, and identifying them creates an awareness of where the risk is highest for losing critical skills and knowledge.


The employees who do a job are in the best position to understand the daily requirements, challenges, and opportunities of that role. Local governments should focus on documenting three core aspects for each job role that will eventually be vacated by a retired worker:

  • Job profiles (key responsibilities and accountabilities).
  • Processes (methods and practices for carrying out tasks and activities).
  • Workflows (how tasks and activities interact and integrate with other departments or teams, as well as with tools and systems).

Local governments must find ways to recruit and develop the next generation of government employees. Borin and raised in the digital age, the recruitment and onboarding of millennials requires unique techniques to reach these tech-savvy candidates where they are job hunting. Click below to learn more about recruiting the next generation of local government employees in the digital era.


Local governments across the country are looking to HRMS solutions to help them mitigate the risks of the Silver Tsunami. However, not all HR software is created equal. In the worst cases, local government human resource teams have having enterprise resource planning (ERP) software foisted upon them by their finance departments. Click here to learn why an ERP is not a tool built for talent recruitment and retention.

Click below to watch our recorded webinar series to learn what to look for when searching for a valuable HRMS solution that will help you get ahead of the Silver Tsunami surge in your community.