Years ago, when I worked in the hotel industry, the company’s labor attorney would call once a year to ask a favor. He asked for lunch reservations in the hotel restaurant on New Year’s Day. Every year. Lunch reservations on New Year’s. Finally, I got up the nerve to ask him why he wanted the reservation. He explained that he and his wife would have a super long lunch on New Year’s to talk about the future. They discussed their life, jobs, etc.
I thought this was a great idea. So, when Mr. Bartender and I started ITM Group, we decided to have the same conversation. Now we did do things a little bit differently. Instead of lunch on New Year’s, we decided to call ours a strategic planning meeting. And we added a conversation about retirement.
As owners of a small business, we knew it was important for us to think about what we wanted our retirement to look like. And when we wanted to start retirement.
During these conversations, there was one thing that kept coming up – how much we liked blogging. We had no idea when we started HR Bartender ten years ago that the blog would have grown exponentially and that we would love writing, marketing, and interacting with a huge community of readers.
That’s how our new blog, Unretirement Project, was born. But in doing so, we realized that what we were really creating was a blog about having something to do instead of traditional retirement. Hence, the concept of unretirement was born.
Since we launched the blog, I’ve talked to many individuals who are thinking about the same things that we were in terms of their own unretirement. Employees who enjoy working and want to continue contributing, albeit on a reduced schedule. Individuals who would like to pursue their encore career. Employees thinking about going back to school and learning something new. Or individuals who have decided to become freelancers or consultants.
Organizations have a huge opportunity here. With unemployment at record lows, companies need to find ways to tap into the talents of individuals thinking about retirement and unretirement. In many organizations, retirement has become synonymous with resignation. You know, someone goes to their manager and says, “I’m planning to retire at the end of the month.” Organizations are left to scramble trying to capture a departing employee’s knowledge and find their replacement.
One of the reasons that we’re in the situation is because we haven’t thought of unretirement as part of the employee life cycle. When activities – like transfers and promotions – become part of the employee life cycle, we talk about them more often. We discuss them openly. And we plan for them. Companies can make unretirement part of the employee life cycle by considering these three strategies:
- Recruiting: Remember all jobs are not necessarily full-time jobs. When work needs to be done, the organization needs to remember the “buy, build, borrow approach” and ask the question, “Is this a full-time job?” It’s possible that the organization could engage a part-time, on call, or freelancer to get the work done.
- Benefits: Consider a benefits package for contingent employees. In many almost all organizations, benefits are for full-time employees and, if you’re not full-time, you have no benefits. As companies build a contingent workforce, they might want to consider offering some sort of benefits package for part-time employees – it could go a long way in recruiting and retention.
- Training: Provide managers with the tools to engage contingent workers. The key to successfully working with an unretired workforce is treating them like they’re unretired. Managers still need to engage and train part-time employees and freelancers at the same levels of full-time staff. The company still expects high levels of performance from all workers.
Organizations cannot afford to let their talent simply “retire”, taking years of knowledge and experience with them. By encouraging employees to unretire for a few years, the organization could create a real win for themselves and for employees. But like all the other phases in the employee life cycle, it takes planning and open, honest conversations about the future.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA16