You don’t need to me to tell you how hard it is to replace an excellent long serving employee who is about to retire; one who has accumulated vast amounts of sector specific knowledge, has a great industry reputation, possesses an intimate understanding of your firm and is an integral member of your leadership team.
Of course, the main way that organizations tend to deal with this issue of retirement is to develop and maintain a succession plan and groom a successor to replace the outgoing leader. But, even though this is the most popular approach to dealing with retirement, research from Korn/Ferry International of 1,318 executives in 2011 suggests that just 35 percent of companies have a succession plan in place for senior executives.
So, it seems there is ample room for some other approaches to managing senior leader succession within your business. One obvious approach is to take advantage of the trend/sentiment that we are seeing amongst boomers towards delayed retirement. Yes, a survey by Fidelity Investments, which looked at the attitudes and behaviors of boomers between 49 and 67 years old, found that 74 percent of them plan to delay retirement past the age of 65 or not retire at all. This delayed retirement is not just based on sufferance, e.g. having to do it for economic reasons, which was a concern cited by 69 percent of applicants. Many boomers actually want to keep working, out of choice, with 81 percent suggesting they want to keep working to stay busy and productive and simply because they love their work too much.
With so much willingness in the boomer generation to extend their working lives beyond traditional retirement boundaries, employers should be thinking proactively about ways of enticing their highest performing boomers to stay on and continue contributing to the organization.
So, what techniques can firms adopt to pull their boomers back from the brink of retirement and help them break through the retirement barrier.
As I see there are four main strategies that can be used to retain baby boomers on the verge of retiring.
1. Mentoring: Establish a high profile, well respected mentoring program that boomers can participate in and gain the satisfaction, self affirmation and confidence of imparting their wisdom and knowledge to younger workers and helping them to meet their goals. Invite boomers to join and help to show the organization the unique values of older workers.
2.Consulting: Many people retire in order to launch their own businesses or consultancies in a similar or associated business. So, why not continue to benefit from the retiring boomer’s competency and senior level knowledge by becoming his/her main client/user of their services.
3. Part-time: Other boomers retire simply to improve their work-life balance e.g. less work, stress, hours and commuting and more leisure, but many of them still have a strong desire to work. So why not take advantage of this by offering retiring boomers the chance for partial retirement via reduced hours. This may seem like a very attractive proposition.
4. Flexible short-term contracts: This can be a great option for boomers who are still full of vitality and actually want to continue working in quite an engaged intensive way for short periods on a project basis, but who are also interested in traveling and enjoying retirement in quite an intensive way. They get the best of both worlds. They get the benefits of retirement, that is freedom and flexibility for long periods, but can still enjoy short brief periods of stimulating and engaging work.
We should of course not forget that retirement is a complex decision and one of the most important life decisions that anyone can make and it should be respected and so avoid using aggressive, strong arm tactics to retain boomers. Focus on a soft, more holistic approach bestowing the benefits of working ‘on’, and creating an environment that is welcoming of it.