I ran across an interesting article recently in Workforce Magazine titled, “Phased Retirement Largely Ignored Despite Flood of Retirees”. The title says it all. Organizations don’t have structured phased retirement programs in place. Frankly, a lot of organizations don’t have structured retirement programs.
But I don’t believe this trend of not having phased retirement programs is going to continue. And I don’t feel that employees have to wait around for such retirement programs to get created. Some of the work may actually happen organically.
Organizations continue to struggle finding qualified talent. The job market has shifted in the candidate’s favor. For individuals looking to stay in the workforce longer, those opportunities exist. According to an article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the number of employed older Americans has increased by 35 percent over the past decade. This is due in part to increased longevity, which means that people need to finance a longer retirement.
So individuals and organizations have the opportunity to create a win-win where work, phased retirement, and retirement are concerned. Older employees can stay in the workforce longer to build up additional resources for their retirement.
Then, organizations and employees can work together to create an interim step (aka phased retirement). But here’s where I think the challenge lies. I’m not sure phased retirement programs have a lot of history or established best practices. As we learned from my interview with Joyce Maroney from The Workforce Institute at Kronos, phased retirement isn’t simply “going part-time”. It involves communication, planning, and training.
Both employees and organizations need to be willing to initiate the conversation about phased retirement. They need to be open to the notion of doing a trial run or beta arrangement. And then, they have to debrief their experiences to make the next time better.
Yes, phased retirement is exciting and fun. It’s also a business decision. And as employees, we should be prepared to wear both hats. There must be a balance between “I’m looking forward to working less and relaxing more.” AND “I need to have a role that brings value, even if it is part-time.” I absolutely believe it can be done. And we have the skills to make it happen. We just have to be prepared to start the unretirement talk.
Speaking of skills, if you happen to work for one of those companies that might be looking to create a few phased retirement test cases, please note a couple of paragraphs earlier when I talked about what individuals and organizations need to do: initiate conversations, openness to a trial, and debrief experience. What I’m getting at is that being a part of a phased retirement program involves good communication and feedback. Don’t expect the other person or someone else to do all the talking.
Phased retirement programs benefit both employees and employers. IMHO, organizations would be well-served to implement a few test cases before adopting a formal phased retirement program. But that means managers and employees need to be willing to communicate their plans and goals, share positive and negative feedback, and remain committed to doing what’s right for everyone involved.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby somewhere off the coast of Miami, FL