A huge demographic shift is underway, and it is already affecting the workplace. Baby boomers in the U.S. are reaching full retirement age at a rate of 10,000 per day. Without preparation, a mass exit could create lost expertise and organizational knowledge. Yet not all boomers are eying the exit door. According to research conducted in 2014 by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 65% of boomers were at least planning to work beyond age 65.
Delayed Retirement a Concern
Results from a 2018 Willis Towers Watson Survey found that nearly half of the employers involved in their study were concerned about a delay in retirement plans. For example, thirty-seven percent expressed concerns that these delays in retirement could block promotions for younger workers. Other employers were concerned about increased costs for benefits and salaries associated with retaining older workers. Some believed that these older workers who were hanging onto their jobs were not as efficient or capable as younger ones (though research does not support this belief).
A Silver Lining
While the loss of expertise or the lack of willingness to leave could represent some workplace challenges, there is a silver lining to consider. It starts with awareness and appropriate strategies.
According to the 2018 Willis Towers Watson Survey, about half of employers didn’t have a clear understanding of when their employees were actually planning to leave. In a 2017 article for Business.com, the author suggests that employers need to analyze their own workforce demographics and determine who is eligible in their organization for retirement in the near future.
Tapping into Expertise
Because a loss of several key employees in a short period of time could be disruptive to business, some employers are looking at ways to capture knowledge and experience by having employees near retirement assume mentoring roles for younger employees. Other employers are tapping into their older employees’ expertise by asking them to work on special assignments. Still, others are offering valued older employees consulting work or flexible schedules to retain them longer. Making sure that valued older workers feel like they belong and are not isolated is also an important retention consideration. Involving older workers in intergenerational teams is one way some workplaces are keeping their older talent connected.
Research has found that other boomers are hanging onto their jobs for reasons that employers don’t always recognize. Some are not financially prepared to support twenty, thirty, or more years of retirement. Others want to keep working because they enjoy it. Some workers are simply anxious about the unknown—they have no idea of what life would be like without their familiar work environment.
Employ Various Transition Strategies
Various employers are using intentional strategies to help their older workers transition into retirement. Certainly, educating employees early on financial preparation for retirement is important. Helping future retirees understand Medicare and Social Security is also a way to help prepare older workers for retirement.
In addition to financial strategies, some workplaces have provided training and coaching on preparing for their employees’ lives after retirement. Intel uses an interesting approach by providing some employees near retirement with the opportunity to apply for a program called Encore Career Fellowship. Through this opportunity, employees not only get to serve the community, but they also get to explore their own passions and interests that they may want to cultivate in their next life after retirement. Other employers offer opportunities including special assignments and flexible or reduced work hours to help their employees gradually transition into retirement.
The Value of Creating a Positive Exit Strategy
If retirement transitions are not handled respectively, your reputation could be undermined by disillusioned retirees. If retirement transitions are handled effectively, your organization will have created strong advocates who will help spread your message. If you treat your employees well – all the way through to the finish line—you will likely win their loyalty for life. There really is a silver lining if you look for it.