This post is the first of a two-part series about the retirement of Baby Boomers and its impact on organizations’ return on investment and productivity.

“The idea of living a longer life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting older doesn’t appeal to anyone.”
—Andy Rooney

Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) began retiring in 2011 and will continue into 2030, if not beyond. Life and world events give them a different perspective of retirement than prior generations. One critical factor is their life expectancy is higher, due to advances in healthcare. Living longer is no longer unusual.

How will seniors remain engaged, productive, and able to manage the time they now can look forward to? Boomers will remain physically active, have the desire to keep learning, and look for new challenges. This trend means that retirees (and those about to enter this stage) need to reimagine their lives, including their mindset about work. Is working a part of retirement? The benefits Boomers find in working after retirement can include:

  • additional income
  • intellectual engagement
  • using skills and expertise
  • giving back to the community
  • exploring new work possibilities
  • enhancing social participation
  • having meaningful or desired structure in their lives. 

Continuing to work in some fashion is part of the new retirement paradigm. Boomers are not yet done with the workplace. Compared with older generations, the Boomers who are today between 53 and 71 years old are more educated and technically competent. Thus, they are the largest trained pool of potential future employees to be tapped into. 

What are organizations doing to prevent this brain drain of organizational knowledge, skills, and expertise? Are they showing their appreciation and respect for past contributions to the organization’s success and growth? How can this talent pool be re-engaged and retained? 

Organizations need to review and update their policies and procedures for employee retirement and replacement. A survey would result in a clearer profile of their Baby Boomer population and establish the gaps and low points that will be created upon their retirement:

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  • How many people are close to retirement or thinking about retirement?
  • What management roles do they fill?
  • What skills and abilities will need to be replaced when they leave?
  • What industry, service providers, customer, or client relationships will be disrupted?
  • What intellectual capital do your Boomers have? 

The information gathered and assessed will become the foundation for recruiting, retaining, and training senior workers. 

Creating an Age-Friendly Workplace

Older workers should be considered assets, not liabilities. Employers are beginning to change their mindsets regarding retaining retirees or hiring new older workers. As Boomers start their retirement transition by attending retirement workshops, reviewing their financial status, and filing the necessary papers, organizations are becoming more aware of their talent exit. 

Unsurprisingly, age discrimination is rooted in preconceived notions of older workers. Supervisors think that senior workers are no longer capable of doing their job, lack the stamina and energy, are not up-to-date with technology, or are simply stuck in their ways. 

Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, is leading a new movement challenging ageist stereotypes and language that exist in American culture. One way to combat ageism is by making your workplace more age-friendly. Strategies for creating a more age-friendly workplace include:

  • Identify opportunities for your retirees continue to work, perhaps in a different role or arena. Create nonvirtual, alternative pathways for older job applicants.
  • Offer alternative work schedules, such as flexible, part-time, or contract assignments.
  • Explicitly state in job notices that mature workers are welcome.
  • Educate managers and HR leaders to identify and address misconceptions about older workers.
  • Partner with community-based and educational organizations to reach older candidates.
  • Provide technology training as part of your revised hiring and retaining procedures to ensure continual access to a diverse talent pool.
  • Establish older-adult internships to try out the “job fit.”

Stay tuned for the second blog post, which will discuss the link between maintaining mature workers and an organization’s return on investment. Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments below!