Companies need to open their eyes to the benefits of keeping older people in the workforce for longer.
Just as it makes good, empathetic sense to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, it makes just as much sense to reflect the diversity of your customers in your own employee base. If you can think like them, you can attract them.
For this reason companies have rushed to embrace gender diversity, but age diversity is often overlooked.
Many baby boomers will live another 25 to 35 years or so and are likely to be a core customer and employee base for some time to come. Japan, the source of much savvy management thinking, has deployed older workers in an effort to fight its economic crisis. In this environment, leadership experience trumps youthful enthusiasm, with companies re-hiring retirees who, they hope, will pass on not only their leadership expertise but valuable network of contacts.
It goes without saying that older workers hardly have their feet on the first few rungs of the career ladder. Most have retirement in their sights, at some point. And many prefer a gentle progression, rather than a brutal cut-off point. Even so, most people put more planning into a holiday than into their retirement.
For boomers themselves financial considerations, preparation and, at times, anxiety dominate planning for this phase of their life. The main focus is on money and the question most often asked is, “Will I have enough to live on and will it last?” rather than, “What do I really want to do next and how will I do it?”
Given the changing nature of work and future workforce demands, it begs the question as to whether employers should be assisting with this type of transition planning. Career transition programs are supported in larger businesses and during outplacement programs but the concept of an in-house transition to retirement program could provide unexpected benefits.
Personally, I cannot see a life without some sort of work and when asked what I do now I explain that I have entered unretirement. Following my retrenchment, at 58, during the global financial crisis the arc of my self-managed transition spanned several years and led in turn to the creation of a new business and a number of creative interests and philanthropic pursuits which contribute to my overall health, happiness and sense of wellbeing.
Based on the models and methods of corporate strategic planning, my retirement plan laid the foundation for my successful transition and I now work with people to assist them with this process. For me this means a varied period of meaningful professional activity which helps others, creative writing, music making and performance and pro bono work that makes a contribution to the local neighbourhood. All backed up by a clear plan!
BENEFITS OF A TRANSITION TO RETIREMENT PROGRAM
- Identify employees who want to remain in the workforce for a range of reasons (they want to work, they need to work, they have to work). They can continue to contribute to the business on reduced hours or in another capacity, keeping their knowledge, skills and experience in the organisation longer.
- Assist employees in planning their post-work life as part of a diversity program and giving them purpose and focus as they leave the organisation.
- Help set up and develop organisation-based alumni groups (a feature of many large European businesses) that help people stay in contact and interact beyond employment.
- Lead to the creation of a mentor group that helps keep people in touch with their peers while sharing their expertise with younger employees.
- Increase employee well-being as a result of them knowing that they will enter the next phase of life with a clear sense of purpose and direction.
BY PETER BARBER FAIM, principal facilitator/coach at Follow Your Star, a practice which helps people of all ages plan their future.