In the March issue of Contracting Profits, we reported on how building service contractors can better manage employee turnover. The high frequency at which many BSCs are forced to replace workers often can harm employee morale and company growth. But there is another instance when an employee’s departure can be just as damaging: retirement.

Last month, my father retired after 27 years at his job. His departure will leave behind a significant hole in the company, not easily filled. He has knowledge and industry skills that can’t be taught, rather only learned through years of on-the-job experience. Getting his replacement up-to-speed will take time.

A number of companies will experience a similar problem in the near future, as more than 25 percent of the working population will reach retirement age by 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unfortunately, succession planning isn’t on the radar of too many businesses. Based on a recent survey by the Boston College Center on Aging and Work, only 33 percent of employers have made projections about the retirement rates of their employees.

With so many workers approaching retirement, business owners should be analyzing employee demographics to determine who may be leaving the company in the next few years. Then, identify if there are individuals currently on staff capable of taking these positions. If the replacements don’t possess the same skills or experience to handle their new responsibilities, start the learning process early — especially if the person is of a different generation. Young workers are impatient. If they don’t know they’re being groomed, they may jump to the competition before their potential predecessor even retires.