Baby Boomers are retiring, and taking years of experience and knowledge with them. Simultaneously, Millennials are not interested in their labor-intensive jobs, leaving the supply chain and logistics industry grasping for qualified workers.

Couple this with the influx of automation and robotics designed to make employees’ jobs easier, and it seems as though these jobs will never be filled.

About 40% of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Washington, D.C. That number is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population (people ages 65-74 and 75 and older) through 2024. In contrast, participation rates for most other age groups in the labor force aren’t projected to change much over the 2014-2024 decade.

So, how do companies prepare for an aging workforce? How do businesses honor the experience and knowledge of their legacy employees, yet still make room on the roster for the newbies?

Implement a mentorship. There’s something to be said for listening to your elders’ stories. Sometimes, you may actually learn a thing or two. To adequately transfer the knowledge from one to the other, implement a mentorship where a longer-term employee trains and educates a newcomer on the basics of a particular job or task.

Develop different roles within the company. More and more of today’s cold food processors are installing automated machines and robotics in cold storage warehouses and other areas in extreme temperatures to replace human bodies. And, the misconception is that these robots are replacing human bodies. But, that’s not the case. Instead, food manufacturers are moving those human bodies to other parts of the facility that aren’t impacted by harsh environments. As a result, Millennials aren’t required to fill roles that aren’t deemed “trendy,” but are instead filling roles that better suit their professional desires.

Make a suggestion box. Today’s youth are vocal, and want to work for companies that welcome their freedom of speech. That’s why companies need to allow room for suggestions on how to improve a certain procedure or process. Award those that make a difference, whether it be to improve a carbon footprint, increase energy savings, reduce packaging or simply just enhance an internal process.

Become flexible. In order to attract the younger workers, companies must adapt to the times. Incorporate flexible hours, design employee-friendly workspaces, incorporate a sustainability message that younger employees can relate to and support, and most importantly, continue to innovate. 

Embrace new technology. How many times have we asked a company, “why do you do it this way?” and they respond, “this is just how we’ve always done it.” But, what if how you’ve always done it could be done better and different? What if this process was successful and valuable 20 years ago, but can be automated a bit to improve productivity? That’s why food processors need to embrace new technology. Automated controls, refrigeration sensors, blockchain technology, cloud-based systems and warehouse management software are just a number of technologically-advanced solutions designed to improve the way companies do business. Baby Boomers may not be as receptive to these changes, or may not understand how it all works, but Millennials only know technology, so companies must adapt in order to attain new talent.

Experience matters, but degrees may matter more. Occupations not requiring a bachelor’s degree are 229% more susceptible to automation compared to occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a report released by Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. Why does this matter? When trying to prepare for the retiring Baby Boomers, try to fill those spots with candidates who carry degrees over experience, so they last longer and keep the turnover rate to a minimum. 

Keep track of competitors. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. It’s important to keep track of what your competitors are doing, not just from an innovation standpoint, but as an overall corporate responsibility standpoint. How are your competitors taking care of their employees? How are they integrating the old and the young? What programs do they have in place to transfer knowledge from the seasoned employees to the newly hired ones? Doing so enables your company to stay in the game.