Brain Drain

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 23:07 PM

By Eileen Feretic

A recent article from The Washington Post reported on the various challenges facing the U.S. Census Bureau. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/22/AR2009072203695.html?wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter). With the 2010 census breathing down its neck, the bureau must deal with the fact that 22 out of 50 of its top managers are eligible for retirement next year. Think about the negative impact that will have on the bureau.

Let's take that one step further and think about all the experienced managers in the private sector who have been laid off during the last 18 months. Enterprises have been limping along without these veteran workers during the current lean times, but what's going to happen when the economy picks up and companies start growing again? How will they replace people who had 20, 30 or 40 years of experience?

The simple answer is, they can't.

Robert Grove, the bureau's director, is being proactive. According to The Washington Post, "He said he will seek 'every legal way possible' to attract qualified replacements but urged employees of all ages to start swapping war stories."

That's a great idea for the Census Bureau, but in the private sector, the people experienced enough to share war stories are few and far between.

It seems likely that companies will have to scramble to find--and possibly rehire--laid-off pros. But will the organizations attract enough of them to reverse the brain drain? Will they have enough experienced people to grow the business and compete effectively in an increasingly complex market? Will those who started their own firms and enjoy being an entrepreneur be willing to go back to working for a corporation--or will the bad taste left by the layoffs keep them from returning?

We won't know for sure until it happens, but my gut feel is that a lot of these people--individuals with knowledge, skills and talent--have been lost to Corporate America.

What a waste!