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How do I help my long-term employees transition into retirement? Elaine Varelas discusses

As the average age of employment rises with each passing year, it's not uncommon for mid-level employees to seek upward mobility elsewhere. However, through encouragement and planning, your retirement-age employees can actually assist in the intellectual transfer of information to help the future generation of leaders succeed. Elaine Varelas offers considerations to help your organization begin the conversation.

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Q: As an HR rep, I’m concerned about the average age of our organization. We have very talented long-term senior employees, and we’re losing mid-level employees who see no opportunity for promotion. What can I do to ensure we have a next generation of leaders at our company and encourage people to retire?

A: Your organization is not alone in dealing with the dual challenge of encouraging your employees to stay as well as finding opportunities to promote them to the leadership roles they want. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to do that is to make room by encouraging individuals who may be of retirement age to transition. Some organizations are able to offer incentive or voluntary retirement programs to promote this alternative, which typically offers enhanced severance, enhanced benefits continuation, and a bridge to social security. Other organizations, however, can’t contend with the significant cost factor of incentives as they look to make room within the organization. If you are going to begin exploring these options, ensure that you do so while consulting with legal counsel about any conversations regarding retirement.


Tom Wilson, a nationally-recognized management consultant, is the author of “Next Stage: In Your Retirement, Create the Life You Want” which details an exploration of what retirement could be by presenting useful questions and helpful ways to find solutions about life after full-time work. He describes the organizational challenge by reminding us that “there are ten thousand people per day turning sixty-five, and this will go on for nineteen years more.” Companies are not equipped to handle or manage this increase in age as people continue to work beyond that traditional retirement landmark.

Your organization must partner with your retirement-age employees to facilitate an intellectual transfer of information, and in doing so, they can make the transition to helping the next generation of leaders succeed. Most retirement-age employees have identified the ideal scenario as slowly transitioning from full time, to part time, to retiring over a much longer period of time than organizations can currently provide. Make this happen, and your organization can keep longer term talent and develop and promote mid-level talent.


Also challenged by this trend are potential retirees who may be facing common road blocks. Two of those larger blocks are a lack of funds, or a lack of desire to retire. In regards to the former issue, most often people either don’t have the money to retire or they don’t have clear insight into their personal financial situation and what they would actually need. The latter issue, however, is more complex; potential retirees are often faced with a lack of clarity about what retirement would look like and how they would fill their days. Many organizations offer financial planning, but what they forget is that money is only one part of a person’s full life, and that their employees are trying to figure out what the next phase will even look like. Until they have a fulfilling alternative, they’re going to keep working, which is inadvertently blocking the development of other employees.


Some organizations are starting to help employees and their partners explore what retirement can look like by offering pre-retirement workshops designed to help an employee ask questions or contemplate continued education, health and wellness, spirituality, part-time work, relationships, and other significant life sectors outside of a professional career. Your organization can start this for employees early in their careers decades before reaching retirement age, which allows for more conversations and the opportunity to visualize and plan for a fulfilling life after full-time employment.

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