Filling the Workforce Gap


The last year has gone by quickly. The volatility in the markets and businesses we all operate within daily contribute to the fast pace. As years continue to click off, more and more Baby Boomers will be retiring sooner rather than later, which forces all businesses to have a strong workforce plan for replacing exiting workers.

The workforce in 2024 is a combination of primarily 4 generations: Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 to 1980), Millennials (born 1981 to 1996), and Generation Z (born between 1997 to 2012). Per an analysis of census data from Glassdoor, Millennials make up most of the full-time workforce with 49.5 million workers followed by Gen X at 42.8 million, Baby Boomers at 17.3 million and Gen Z at 17.1 million. Gen Z is expected to overtake Baby Boomers by numbers in the workforce this year.

This population data shows why the retirement of more Baby Boomers will create recruitment headaches in the years ahead with short falls in the sheer numbers of those in the next generations following the Boomers. Unlike the Boomers, not all Gen Xers will continue to work full time as many are at a life stage that includes children and/or caring for aging parents. Millennials have received a tough image over the years but are the most consistent group within the workforce. Gen Z is a wholly unique generation totaling just under 69 million, but not all are of working age, and many are still enrolled in college, which is why only 17.1 million have actually entered the workforce.

It does not matter if the Boomer retiring is a fortune 500 executive, an assembly line worker, or a rural agriculture producer, the challenge to replace the workers is real, because we don’t know how quickly Gen Zs will enter or if Gen X or Millennials will want to take on new roles and relinquish old ones. Simple math shows roughly 10,000 Boomers retiring every day. The roles and responsibilities of those Boomers will be challenged and modified by those replacing them no matter which generation they are from. The revelation from GWI that 98% of Gen Z individuals (aged 12 to 27) own a smartphone is truly staggering. The smart phone was not even invented yet when nearly half of the current workforce consisting of Boomers and Gen Xers began working. This statistic supports that no matter the role, the processes across the span of the Boomers’ career have changed exponentially with technology, and will greatly continue with the Gen Zers.

UFC has and will continue to embrace the need for technology for efficiencies, recruiting, retaining, and overall work-life balance of our employees and members. Some examples within UFC are automation within feed production, digital dispatch for trucks with cab monitors for pin drop delivery locations, AgVend mobile app for smartphone access, and mobile App for timeclock management. Although these are great tools and UFC continues to improve on being a preferred employer, the shortfall for general operational employees still exists requiring UFC to help fill the gap with workers from outside the US labor pool through the H2A program for seasonal agricultural workers.

The rural MN population within the UFC trade territory is not significantly growing, and unfortunately consists of many Boomers that tend to reside in rural areas which generates a larger gap within UFC’s workforce. The UFC employee demographic supports this with Boomers being tied for the largest (26.1%) generation of UFC workforce as of March 2024. One of the most effective strategies for UFC is being more efficient with current locations, equipment, and people. This has created opportunities for task redistribution within the team and the strategic utilization of technology. As a result, we may only hire one new employee to replace two retiring employees, making their bittersweet retirement more manageable.

In closing, UFC as a whole is more agile and competitive than ever before in preparation for filling this workforce gap and other challenges that will arise. UFC is well positioned to react quickly and efficiently as opportunities arise, as UFC’s financial health and future outlook is strong.

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