According to a new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, companies are not prepared for dealing with aging workers. Only one-third of companies are actually examining their policies and practices to address this issue. In addition, an extra 20% had decided that no changes are necessary in their existing policies and practices. The survey is really interesting and you can check it out here.
It reminded me of Ted C. Fishman’s book, “Shock of Gray”. The book talks about the aging population and the implications for business, consumers, etc. Frankly, it doesn’t seem logical to think that a large portion of our society is getting older and that it just doesn’t impact the workplace.
However, in speaking with colleagues, maybe businesses do realize that the workforce is aging. And that they need to do something about it. The challenge is reframing the retirement conversation.
It’s not as easy as it looks. People are starting to realize the importance, but it will take a paradigm shift to get the conversations going.
Years ago, retirement was like resigning. You went into the office one day and you said, “I’m retiring.” And you did. When you retired, you stopped working and started collecting your pension. Done. Finito.
Today, retirement looks very different. More older workers are planning to stay full-time longer. They are trying to plan a phased retirement. Some people are announcing their retirement, leaving the working world for a few months, and then asking to return! This could be a challenge in organizations that have never dealt with these situations.
Companies need to figure out how to allow retirement conversations to happen within their culture. The organization will benefit when employees feel comfortable talking about their plans for the future and the company can better positioned to react to them. Valuable historical knowledge about the company can be transferred. Jobs can be redesigned to accommodate part-time or contingent work, allowing the company to retain talent. Older workers can mentor or coach young professionals and help with their leadership development.
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Aging workers and retirement are not a dirty words in the workplace. They are also not synonyms for resignation. Aging workers are thinking about retirement. Companies should be thinking about it as well. There’s an opportunity to create a win-win. But it takes communication.
UPDATE (February 3, 2015): The subject of this post focuses on companies and employees working together in the spirit of creating a win-win where retirement is concerned. And that is very much possible. However, I do want to remind everyone there are risks to these conversations. As one of my astute employment attorney friends reminded me, companies that initiate these conversations then later terminate employees, or otherwise subject them to adverse action such as a demotion, could be opening themselves up for age bias claims. As always, if you have any questions about engaging in this type of discussion, reach out to your friendly labor attorney.
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby0