According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), organizations aren’t prepared for dealing with an aging workforce. Only one-third of companies are examining their policies and practices to address this issue. In addition, an extra 20 percent had decided that no changes are necessary to their existing policies and practices. I encourage you to check out the survey findings. It’s a good read.
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 me that a large portion of our society is getting older and it wouldn’t impact the workplace.
However, in speaking with my HR colleagues, maybe businesses do realize that the workforce is aging. And that they need to do something about it. The challenge becomes reframing the retirement conversation inside organizations.
It’s not as easy as it looks. People are starting to realize the importance, but it will take a change in basic assumptions 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. Finite.
Today, retirement looks very different. It’s looks like…well, unretirement. An increasing number of older workers are planning to stay full-time longer. They are planning a phased retirement. Some employees are announcing their retirement, leaving the working world for a few months, and then asking to return! Organizations could be facing some unique challenges if they’ve never dealt with these situations before.
Companies need to figure out how to allow retirement conversations to happen within their culture. Organizations 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.
Aging workers and retirement are not dirty words in the workplace. They are also not synonyms for resignation. An aging workforce is thinking about retirement. Companies should be thinking about it as well. There’s an opportunity to create a win-win. But it takes communication.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby during a photo tour in New Orleans, LA