OC Positioned Well For Surge In Retirements, Officials Say

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Human Resources Director Wayne Evans knows that Ocean City’s workforce, much like the rest of the country, is getting older, but he believes the resort is primed and ready to handle the inevitable turnover of retiring talent.

“We do have a large contingent of long serving employees with the Town of Ocean City and that is one of our many strengths, but what we are experiencing is a growing number of people who are either eligible for retirement now or who will be in the next few years,” said Evans.

The median age of full-time employees in Ocean City currently is 46.2 years, according to Evans, and the average length of tenure with the town is a little more than 13 years.

Those numbers have decreased a bit since the town offered up a one-time retirement incentive to 84 eligible employees back in 2010 during the second round of then-City Manager Dennis Dare’s aggressive cost cutting measures during the recession.

“Not everyone took the deal, but it was extremely successful,” said Dare. “It allowed us to move some people around and place them in line through reorganization of some of our departments for vacancies that were coming up.”

Dare said the retiring employees were only half the story, though.  The move to offer up the retirement incentive deal, which was largely sold as a cost cutting measure during a time when “belt tightening” and “trimming of low hanging fruit” were all too common catchphrases amongst town and elected officials, enabled the city to reorganize its workforce to better prepare for an aging trend that eventually would need addressing.

“We’ve lost a lot of people in the past few years due to retirement, and thankfully we’ve been very conscious of succession planning,” said Dare. “It’s hard to replace people that have 30 years of experience and are experts in their respective fields.  You have to plan for that, and I think we have done that pretty well.”

With each passing week, nationally, more than 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65 each day from now until 2030.

The US Department of Labor Statistics shows that America’s workforce is not just getting older, but it’s also growing slower, and becoming much more diverse.

Additionally, predictions for workforce growth from now until 2022 are purely tied to expected population growth. In fact, the workforce participation rate is actually expected to fall slightly (about 2 percent) by 2022.

That said, America’s workforce is expected to reach 163 million by 2022, and the number of workers ages 55 and over is rising at the highest rate of any of the demographics polled.

That means some baby boomers have either chosen to extend their careers or will be forced to because they lost much of their retirement savings during the recession.

Either way, Evans says Ocean City must continue to plan for the future to ensure that the residents and visitors receive that same high quality of service that they have come to expect.

“The council has identified that succession planning is important and has addressed that in the city’s strategic plan,” said Evans. “Following that, we made a commitment to hire a training and development manager so we can give the younger members of the workforce high level training to ready them for promotion from within when spots open up.”

One of those programs is a Supervisor Certification Program, which is a 10-month training program that currently has more than 60 enrollees.

“It’s a long-term thing that is very in depth”, said Evans. “This isn’t an afternoon training session in a classroom somewhere and that’s it.  This will help bring people along in the organization so that they can be ready to step into supervisor roles in their departments when they are ready to move up and needed to step up.”

But while some companies are frivolously cutting costs and inadvertently hurting productivity or their product by slashing veteran workers from the payroll in place of young, inexperienced talent who will work for a much lower salary, Dare believes the town will not be making that same mistake.

“The most costly thing is mistakes,” said Dare. “Some people just look at the employees like we are just trading meat but you can’t just look at the payroll costs. You have to look at your entire operation and how you perform overall. If you hire quality people and develop them over time, you get a better quality of service for your community.”

Evans says that the town is not instilling any kind of attrition program either.

“For the most part, if a position becomes available we are filling it, but I always encourage department heads to evaluate the work and how we are getting it done,” Evans said.

About The Author: Bryan Russo

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Bryan Russo returned to The Dispatch in 2015 to serve as News Editor after working as a staff writer from 2007-2010 covering the Ocean City news beat. In between, Russo worked as the Coastal Reporter for NPR-member station WAMU 88.5FM in Washington DC and WRAU 88.3 FM on the Delmarva Peninsula. He was the host of a weekly multi-award winning public affairs show “Coastal Connection.” During his five years in public radio, Russo’s work won 19 Associated Press Awards and 2 Edward R. Murrow Awards and was heard on various national programs like NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, APM’s Marketplace and the BBC. Russo also worked for the Associated Press (Philadelphia Bureau) covering the NHL and the NBA and is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter and composer.