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About 20% of City of Wilmington’s employees could retire within next five years

The City of Wilmington is facing workforce challenges that can be seen across the country as more and more employees become eligible for retirement (Port City Daily photo / File)
The City of Wilmington is facing workforce challenges that can be seen across the country as more and more employees become eligible for retirement (Port City Daily photo / File)

Nationwide, Millennials are now the largest group in the workforce at 37% while Baby Boomers retire at a rate of 10,000 people per day

WILMINGTON — Employee retention, it’s an issue for all employers and the City of Wilmington is no different: as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, it is becoming a reality that positions are being left vacant. In fact, according to the city’s Director of Human Resources Al Ragland, 20% of the city’s staff could retire within the next five years.

On Monday, Ragland gave City Council a presentation regarding the city’s current workforce and trends.

Turnover, or employees leaving — be it voluntarily, involuntarily, or through retirement — over the past five years has been fluctuating between 10-12%, according to Ragland.

In Fiscal Year 2017 the city’s turnout rate peaked at 12.1% prompting the implementation of a pay study which was conducted; eventually, council implemented several of the suggestions. After doing so, turnover dropped to 9.5% in 2018 and is at 6.1% for 2019.

There are plenty of reasons to leave a job but ultimately the reasons fall into one of three categories, voluntarily, involuntarily, or retirement.

In the past five years, more than 50% of the turnover rate was voluntary, Ragland said. Almost 20% was due to involuntary reasons, and the rest was retirement. When it comes to voluntary turnovers, more than half of the employees that left the city did so because they found a better job, Ragland said.

A retiring workforce

As Baby Boomers reach retirement age the city has seen more and more retirements over the past five years.

Since 2014, 169 employees have retired from the City of Wilmington, according to the presentation — and within the next five years, 20% of the city’s workforce could retire.

Because of the increase in retirees, the city’s workforce average age is declining and more and more younger people enter into jobs left vacant by an aging population.

According to Ragland, with new generations entering the workforce, there are generational differences as to the values and methods of different employees.

Baby Boomers make up 26% of the workforce and are retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day nationwide, and according to Ragland tend to be “ambitious workaholics who get personal fulfillment from work …”

Millennials, on the other hand, did not get such praise and were said to be “not loyal,” and “expect constantly updated tech.” However, this generation makes up the majority of the workforce now taking the edge over Baby Boomers and Generation X.

It’s not just about maintaining a workforce though, in the City of Wilmington there is a 25% discrepancy between the number of jobs available and the number of people applying for these jobs — in short, job openings are increasing while the qualified applicant pool is shrinking.

“We’ve got a gap between the number of jobs and the number of people for us to recruit,” Ragland said.

To highlight this, Ragland used a chart that showed the number of qualified applications received this year compared to five years ago. With 3,453 applications in Fiscal Year 2019 compared to 7,418 in 2013-2014 the number of qualified people wanting jobs in the city has dropped.

“The average number of applicants per recruitment, that is for every job we’re recruiting, there is an average of just over 50 per recruitment. Again, if I go back four or five years ago it was almost doubled,” Ragland said.

Looking forward

As the younger generations continue to move into the workforce, Ragland said the city has to adapt to the newer generation’s wants. Things that were previously unimportant are now deciding factors for potential employees.

Areas of consideration include:

  • Reward and recognition
  • Career progression
  • Paid parental leave
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Ste progression
  • Special pay (hazard pay & bilingual pay)
  • Student loan assistance for employees

While no action was taken during the meeting, over the next several years — as employees continue to retire and the younger generation begins careers — it seems clear there will have to be changes made at the city level.

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